Thu, May 16, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Venezuelan regime blockades congress

‘POLITICAL HARA-KIRI’:Opposition leader Juan Guaido said that the government’s ‘intimidation’ would not deter members of the National Assembly from doing their job

AFP, CARACAS

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido accused the government of trying to “gag” congress after security forces prevented opposition lawmakers from entering the Venezuelan National Assembly on Tuesday, two weeks after Guaido’s failed uprising against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Deputies said that members of the Venezuelan National Guard, who provide security for the building, along with police and Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) agents blocked access to the opposition-controlled legislature.

The move came as Amnesty International said that it believes Venezuelan authorities have committed crimes against humanity in their crackdown on anti-government protests and urged the International Criminal Court to investigate.

“SEBIN agents, using the excuse that there’s an explosive device within the facilities, took over the federal palace. We’re surrounded by intelligence agents,” lawmaker Manuela Bolivar told reporters.

The security forces used “brute force,” Guaido said, adding that congress was “occupied militarily.”

He tried to incite an uprising against Maduro on April 30, but only about 30 members of the armed forces joined him and the revolt quickly petered out.

However, it did spark two days of deadly clashes between protesters and security forces.

Since then, the Maduro regime has ramped up pressure on Guaido’s allies and supporters.

The Venezuelan Constituent Assembly, a rival legislative body that was created by the Maduro government and is packed with people who support him, on Tuesday voted to strip immunity from five more opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly.

That brings to 14 the number who will presumably go to trial for backing the failed insurrection. The charges include treason.

One of them, Deputy National Assembly Speaker Edgar Zambrano, was arrested by SEBIN agents last week.

Another fled to neighboring Colombia, while three others sought refuge in diplomatic compounds.

The Mexican government said that its embassy in Venezuela has taken in opposition lawmaker Franco Manuel Casella to provide him “protection and safety.”

However, even in making the move, the Mexican government reiterated its position of noninterference in the conflict.

Unlike other large Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, Mexico still recognizes Maduro’s government.

Guaido has accused Maduro of trying to dismantle the legislature.

“They’re trying to hold the legislative power hostage while the dictator entrenches himself alone in a palace where he shouldn’t be,” Guaido said on Twitter.

Amnesty International said that Maduro’s government responded with “a systematic and widespread policy of repression” in late January, when anti-government protests swept the country after Guaido declared himself acting president.

The London-based rights group said that at least 47 people were killed during the protests from Jan. 21 to 25, with 11 of the deaths considered “extrajudicial executions.”

At least 33 were shot dead by security forces and six by government supporters, it said.

Some Maduro opponents were tortured, while 900 people, including children, were arbitrarily detained, it added.

“The nature of the attacks ... the level of coordination by the security forces, as well as the signs of similar patterns in 2014 and 2017, leads Amnesty International to believe that the Venezuelan authorities committed crimes against humanity,” the group said in a statement.

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