Venezuela legislature passes amnesty bill

Venezuela's National Assembly on March 29 approved an amnesty law that would free 77 individuals allegedly imprisoned for political reasons under a number of crimes such as instigation of violence or commission of treason. President Nicolas Maduro has vowed to veto the law by any means. Roughly half of the prisoners were jailed by Maduro during anti-government protests in 2014 in which 43 individuals were killed. One of the most well-known opposition prisoners, Leopoldo López, was sentenced to over 13 years in 2015 for inciting violence a year earlier. A former prosecutor from Caracas released a video in October, stating that he was pressured into presenting false evidence to condemn López. The opposition-led assembly maintains that the imprisoned dissidents were not present at the anti-government protests in 2014 and they are being held for illegitimate reasons. Maduro's office stated that the law will be sent to the country's Supreme Court, whose composition is loyal to Maduro. During the vote in the national assembly, Maduro denounced the bill, stating that the law would benefit criminals and terrorists. The court has blocked every measure passed by the national assembly since the opposition-led bloc took control in January.

There has been considerable legislative tension between the pro-government controlled Supreme Tribunal of Justice and the opposition-majority National Assembly of Venezuela following the December election. Earlier this month, the highest court in Venezuela, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, ruled that the Venezuelan national assembly may not review the appointment of 13 justices to the high court. The justices were sworn in on Dec. 23, immediately prior to the exit of prior Socialist Party majority. In February, the court upheld President Maduro's economic emergency decree as legal and valid despite a rejection by the national assembly. The decree allows the president to control the budget, companies and the currency. In January the Supreme Tribunal of Justice ruled that all decisions from the opposition-led assembly would be void until three opposition lawmakers are removed from their seats. The court's decision came days after the assembly swore in elected lawmakers that were temporarily barred by the court. The ruling had suspended four elected lawmakers for their involvement in alleged election fraud last December.

From Jurist, March 30. Used with permission.

  1. Chavista mayor assassinated in Venezuela

    A Venezuelan mayor was killed in a drive-by shooting outside of his home in the town of La Ceiba, Trujillo state, March 29. Marcos Tulio Carrillo, of President Maduro's PSUV, died after suffering eight gunshots wounds. Fellow PSUV members expressed their outrage over the death. "In a terrible way today comrade Marcos Tulio Carrillo, mayor of La Ceiba in the state of Trujillo, was assassinated," said José Vielma Mora, governor of Tachira state, where two police officers were killed by protesters that same day. The officers were slain when demonstrators protesting transit fare hikes in the city of San Cristobal commandeered a bus and ran through a police line. (TeleSur, April 1; TeleSur, March 29)

  2. Venezuela Supreme Court overturns amnesty

    Venezuela's Supreme Court declared an amnesty law for jailed opposition leaders unconstitutional on April 11. The legislation, which was approved by the opposition-controlled congress, would have frees dozens of jailed opposition politicians and was among campaign promises that delivered control of congress to the opposition in 2015. The court reasoned that the law would allow for impunity because it would cover crimes that were of a criminal and not political character. President Nicolás Maduro had strongly opposed the law on the grounds that it was an attempt to destabilize his government and pardon those who he describes as "criminals." Since the opposition took control of congress, the Supreme Court has sided with Maduro's government. (Jurist, April 12)

  3. Venezuela: top court rejects attempt to cut president’s term

    Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice (STJ) on April 25 rejected an attempt by the opposition-led National Assembly to shorten President Nicolas Maduro's term from six years to four. The opposition, which won control of the National Assembly last year, has been attempting to oust Maduro. The STJ held that the proposed constitutional amendment would be viable if approved by referendum but could not apply retroactively. Venezuelan law does allow for a recall election halfway through an official's term. If Maduro were to leave office or be ousted this year, a new election would be held. If he were to leave office in the last two years of his term, the vice president would assume the presidency. (Jurist)