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Maduro opponents released from custody

September 1, 2020

The Venezuelan government has released more than 100 political opponents months before the next congressional elections. Several opposition leaders remain behind bars or in exile.

Nicolas Maduro in a face mask
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Prensa Miraflores/J. Zerpa

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Monday that he had pardoned more than 100 opposition politicians, including associates of opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Those pardoned by the presidential decree include legislator Freddy Guevara, who sought asylum in the Chilean diplomatic residence, as well as Roberto Marrero, who served as chief of staff to Guaido.

"We hope that these measures taken by the Bolivarian government help maintain the democratic focus of all of these political actors," said Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez at a news conference, saying the decree would take effect from publication.

"The government's intention is to deepen the process of national reconciliation for national union so that political issues are settled by peaceful means and by electoral means," added Rodriguez.

Many of the names mentioned in the decree participated in a failed 2019 rebellion that attempted to persuade military members to drop their support for Maduro.

The move comes ahead of congressional elections set for December 6. Opposition candidates, including Guaido, have said they would boycott the elections because conditions for the vote would not be fair.

Leopoldo Lopez
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was not among those freedImage: Getty Images/R. Briseño

Not all released

The presidential decree did not mention Leopoldo Lopez, one of the opposition's most prolific leaders, who was imprisoned in 2014 for leading protests against Maduro. Lopez currently lives in the Spanish diplomatic residence.

It also did not include military officers put away on charges of plotting to overthrow Maduro.

Exiled legislator Julio Borges took to Twitter to support "those who are still in prison, most of all our patriot military officers who have been subject to torture by the dictatorship."

Opposition candidate Americo De Grazia, currently living in exile, tweeted "Maduro is not our president and I am not criminal," addressing Maduro. "If you wish to contribute to Venezuela's peace, pardon the country from this autocracy."

Rights groups have criticized Venezuela's government for jailing political opponents, often on charges with little or no evidence and without due process. Maduro's government has released small groups of opposition leaders in the past, but these were typically followed up by similar arrests.

Venezuela has said that accusations of holding political prisoners were part of US-supported efforts to tarnish its image.

kbd/aw (AP, AFP, Reuters)