Persecuted by Maduro: National Assembly Members

Persecuted by Maduro: National Assembly Members

By Geraldine Cook
September 17, 2019

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Attacks against the members of the only democratically elected body in Venezuela have not let up since 2016, when the first session of the 6th Legislature opened.

On August 12, through its Constituent National Assembly (ANC, in Spanish), the regime revoked the parliamentary immunity of four other opposition members for alleged crimes of “high treason, instigating insurrection, civil rebellion, conspiracy to commit a crime, usurpation of functions, public incitement to disobey the law, and hatred.” These members join the list of more than 100 lawmakers who have suffered human rights violations and have been prosecuted, imprisoned, or exiled.

“The attacks will get more and more aggressive, not only against the National Assembly, but also against any target they [members of the regime] have drawn, either national or international,” Américo De Grazia, an AN lawmaker who has taken refuge at the Italian Embassy in Caracas since May 2019, told Diálogo.

Gregory Weeks, a specialist in Latin American political affairs and professor in the Latin American Studies program at the University of North Carolina, said the government won’t stop harassing the parliament.

“On this point, I don’t think Maduro has much incentive to stop,” Weeks told Diálogo. “The United States is exerting a lot of pressure […] and won’t lift sanctions. So, Maduro tells himself: ‘What’s the point?’ He might as well do what he wants.”

On August 12, ANC President Diosdado Cabello announced the creation of a commission that will evaluate the date for parliamentary elections and the possibility of moving them forward. For Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaidó, moving the elections forward would be a “disaster.”

“What if the regime today dares to – and they can – approve an irregular call for elections without any sort of conditions? They will drown in contradictions and isolation; they will drown in a disaster,” Guaidó told the press.

Maduro does not recognize the AN, whose 122 opposition members (of a total of 167 elected) represent the so-called supermajority. Most opposition lawmakers have been victims of harassment, from threatening graffiti painted on their houses by pro-Maduro gangs to imprisonment, as in the case of Édgar Zambrano, the AN vice president who was kidnapped in May 2019, or Juan Requesens, who has been detained since August 2018 for the alleged drone attack against Maduro.

Other members, such as De Grazia, sought refuge at embassies in Caracas: Marianela Magallanes López at the Italian Embassy; Richard José Blanco Delgado at the Argentine Embassy; Franco Manuel Casella at the Mexican Embassy; Leopoldo López at the Spanish Embassy; and Freddy Guevara and Roberto Henríquez at the Chilean Embassy.