Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 6 December 2020

Venezuela's Maduro pardons opposition politicians

He said it was in the 'interests of promoting national reconciliation'

Lawyer Enrique Perdomo (L) is greeted by relatives and friends as he leaves the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) headquarters, known as El Helicoide. AFP
Lawyer Enrique Perdomo (L) is greeted by relatives and friends as he leaves the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) headquarters, known as El Helicoide. AFP

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday pardoned more than 100 politicians and associates of opposition leader Juan Guaido "in the interests of promoting national reconciliation," the government said.

Mr Guaido's assistant Roberto Marrero and MPs Gilber Caro and Renzo Prieto were among the names read out by Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez live on state television.

The three were released in Caracas on Monday night just hours after the announcement, according to opposition leaders. Other detainees were also freed.

The presidential decree "comes into force from its publication" after which the courts "must implement immediate measures to liberate the persons mentioned," said Mr Rodriguez.

Mr Marrero was arrested in March 2019 and accused of being part of a "terrorist cell" planning attacks to destabilise the Maduro government.

"Freedom is always welcome, whatever people might say," he told media upon leaving intelligence service headquarters.

Mr Guaido himself was not among those pardoned, though, despite several cases open against him.

He insisted that Mr Maduro's government was using the pardons "as trading pieces" to "legitimise a farce," referring to upcoming legislative elections.

"It is a trap and we are not going to fall for it," he wrote on Twitter, emphasising that "you cannot pardon those already innocent or who have immunity."

The list of 110 people included lawmakers whose immunity had been lifted and people with outstanding judicial cases, including opposition lawmakers living in exile.

Opposition MP Freddy Guevara, who fled to the Chilean embassy in the capital Caracas in 2017 after leading anti-government protests that left 125 people dead, was among those pardoned.

The Supreme Court - which has been accused of pandering to the regime - ordered that he be denied the freedom to leave the country.

Also among the pardoned is Henry Ramos Allup, the head of the Democratic Action party which is the oldest in Venezuela.

"Pardon or insult, Maduro is neither president, nor am I a criminal," wrote Americo De Grazia, a MP living in exile.

"If you (Mr Maduro) want to contribute to peace in Venezuela, pardon the country from the usurpation of power, quit the occupation that has resulted in a tragedy inflicted on our people and maybe then we'll have something to thank you for."

The opposition considers Mr Maduro a usurper over his 2018 re-election in a poll widely seen as fraudulent.

In January 2019, Mr Guaido launched a challenge to Mr Maduro's authority by declaring himself acting president, quickly receiving the backing of more than 50 countries.

The pardons announcement came a day after Mr Maduro claimed to be supporting measures to bring "reconciliation" and "dialogue" to the deeply polarised South American country ahead of December legislative elections.

Mr Guaido and leading opposition figures have already vowed to boycott those polls over a lack of transparency after the Supreme Court appointed election officials - a role that should have been conducted by the opposition-controlled legislature.

Updated: September 1, 2020 10:30 AM

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