Maduro’s Constituent Assembly announced today that it was willing to conditionally release as many as 80 political prisoners in exchange for their testimony before a truth commission. The announcement was made by the president of the body, Delcy Rodriguez, during a press conference at the National Assembly building which now acts as the Constituent Assembly’s meeting place.
Rodriguez told reporters that the individuals identified for possible release were arrested for protesting against the Maduro regime in 2014 and 2017. Rodriguez was also clear that if the plan proceeds, the individuals would not be released outright: rather, they would be placed under “substitute measures” like house arrest.
Rodriguez also made clear that if released, the individuals would appear before a truth commission set up by the Constituent Assembly, presumably with the goal of extracting testimony from the prisoners. Rodriguez said:
In the coming days, we will receive them in a pedagogical sense so that the acts that were promoted by the opposition will not happen again.
The Maduro regime has little tolerance for public displays of dissent, and maintains that all anti-government protests are violent expressions of hatred. The regime turned to a brutal “policy to repress” all forms of protest during much of this year, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The OHCHR has denounced the regime’s use of torture against protesters. The regime’s horrific abuses against protesters have also caught the attention of other human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch
The Foro Penal Venezolano (FPV), a local human rights NGO, estimates that there are 268 political prisoners in the country.
While it is not clear how the Constituent Assembly chose the individuals that it plans to release, it is likely that their willingness to speak before the truth commission played a key role in the decision to remove them from prison.
Attorney General Tarek William Saab contradicted earlier reports about the number of political prisoners to be conditionally released by the Constituent Assembly, saying through his Twitter account that the number was 69.
FPV “Aware” Of Movement on Political Prisoners
The FPV reacted to the Constituent Assembly’s announcement today regarding the possible conditional release of a number of political prisoners by saying that it was “aware” of the measure and that it would continue to watch developments unfold.
FPV director Alfredo Romero said through his Twitter account that the organization was working to identify the individuals targeted by the regime, and that it would work to ensure that they are in fact released.
First 13 Prisoners Released
Late this evening, the regime began the process of releasing 13 political prisoners. Their names are: Roberto Picón, Betty Grossi, Alfredo Ramos, Arístides Moreno, Danny Abreu, Andrea González, Marcos Rada, Jhosman Paredes, Carmen Brión, Rafael Liendo, Ronny Navarro, Víctor Ugas, and Gregory Sanabria.
It is not clear at this time what conditions the courts will place on their release, or when–or if–more prisoners will be released.
Regime Expels Ranking Diplomats from Brazil, Canada
The Maduro regime expelled the top-ranking diplomats in the country from Brazil and Canada today over the role that each nation has taken on the international stage against the regime. The expulsions were announced by Constituent Assembly president Delcy Rodriguez.
Rodriguez justified the expulsion of Canada’s charge d’affaires, Craig Kowalik, by citing the country’s “persistent, insulting, and vulgar meddling” in Venezuelan matters. Canada plays a leading role in the Lima Group, which is an association of regional governments who are working to hold the Maduro regime accountable for its abuses and to foster democratic governance in the country.
On the expulsion of Brazilian ambassador Ruy Pereira, Rodriguez only said that he would not be allowed back into Venezuela until “democratic order is restored” in Brazil.
Chaos at Gift Giveaway in Valencia
This afternoon, the new mayor of Valencia–PSUV member Alejandro Marvez–organized a gift giveaway for residents to coincide with Christmas. The event devolved into pandemonium as thousands of desperate Venezuelans for one another for the gifts, which were being thrown haphazardly into the air by a handful of National Guard soldiers.
Below, a clip of the event:
Valencia is the capital of Carabobo state, and one of the country’s biggest cities.
Large Section of Caracas Highway Appears Ready to Collapse
A large section of a cement structure that runs across the Francisco Fajardo highway near the Jardin Botanico section of Caracas appears ready to collapse as large chunks of concrete began dropping onto the road below earlier today.
Below, images of the structure:
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