LATIN AMERICA

Venezuelan Supreme Court strikes down amnesty law

Maduro administration wins latest in series of battles against opposition-led National Assembly

Caracas -
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.EFE
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El Supremo de Venezuela declara inconstitucional la Ley de Amnistía y Reconciliación

In a widely expected decision, Venezuela’s Supreme Court has struck down an Amnesty and Reconciliation Law two weeks after the country’s opposition-controlled parliament passed the bill. President Nicolás Maduro had used his powers to swiftly appeal to the highest court in the land to block the release from jail of 78 political prisoners, among them senior opposition figures Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, despite international criticism from human rights groups.

The Constitutional Court, stacked with supporters of Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, is now, to all intents and purposes, a government tool to block the opposition. The court’s justices ruled that there are no provisions under Venezuelan law for amnesty, and that the proposed measure would engender “scandalous impunity” and that “the National Assembly cannot declare a stay of proceedings in cases of crimes against humanity,” in clear reference to the deaths that took place during the protests organized by López, Ledezma and former Congresswoman María Corina Machado.

Venezuelan politics now seems reduced to a stalemate between government and opposition

The opposition suffered another blow last week. The National Electoral Council, which is also controlled by government supporters, rejected a petition for recall referendum filed by the opposition umbrella group, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). A recall referendum is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before his or her term has ended. The Council said the petition was improperly filed and failed to comply with election laws.

Venezuelan politics now seems reduced to a stalemate in which the opposition passes laws in parliament and the executive branch blocks anything that undermines its political power.

In the meantime, Maduro is nearing his midterm. In January, National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup promised that lawmakers would find the legal means to call for early elections within the first semester of the year.

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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