Venezuela braces for fresh fight over release of ‘political prisoners’


Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition are headed toward another showdown after the National Assembly passed a law that would release dozens of detainees it considers political prisoners.

In a late-night vote Tuesday, congress passed the “Amnesty and Reconciliation” law that pardons jailed activists, including former presidential candidate Leopoldo López and former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, who is currently under house arrest.

Lilian Tintori, López’s wife, who has been the public face of the amnesty measure, said it was a step toward “rescuing the rule of law.”

“We are all going to keep fighting for the political change that all Venezuelans are asking for,” she said in a statement. “Now we need President Maduro to sign [the law] and take a step toward reconciliation.”

Maduro, however, doesn’t seem willing to budge.

On Tuesday he reiterated his intention to veto the measure.

“Rest assured that laws that support terrorists and criminals will never pass here,” he told a cheering crowd of supporters.  

Even if congress overturns Maduro’s veto, the Supreme Court is likely to step in and derail the law. The court, firmly in the hands of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), has blocked a number of congressional initiatives this year, leading to political gridlock in the crisis-riddled country.

López has been under arrest since 2014 in the wake of anti-government protests that left more than 40 dead.

The amnesty law had been one of the opposition’s primary campaign promises as they won control of congress in 2015 for the first time in 17 years. In addition, the opposition has also promised to pass a constitutional amendment and trigger a recall referendum to end Maduro’s term before the 2019 presidential election.