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Amnesty International rep: 'Serious violations' of human rights in Venezuela

By Andrew V. Pestano
Amnesty International rep: 'Serious violations' of human rights in Venezuela
Luis Florido, left, chairman of the Venezuelan National Assembly's Foreign Policy Committee, hosted Amnesty International Director of the Americas Erika Guevara-Rosas, right, on Monday to discuss the human rights crisis in Venezuela under the administration of President Nicolas Maduro. Photo courtesy of Luis Florido

CARACAS, Venezuela, June 7 (UPI) -- Amnesty International representatives visited Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly on Monday to discuss political prisoners and the country's human rights record.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, director of Amnesty International's Americas division, met with the chairman of the National Assembly's Foreign Policy Committee, Luis Florido, and with the president of the Interior Policy Committee, Delsa Solórzano.

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"In Venezuela, all human rights are violated at the same time," Solórzano said Monday, adding that in Venezuela there are now 116 political prisoners, whereas there were 89 in January.

President Nicolas Maduro's administration has been accused of targeting opposition politicians and of suppressing the opposition movement. Monday's meeting included discussion over the incarceration of three opposition National Assembly members, Rosmit Mantilla, Renzo Prieto and Gilberto Sojo, who are reportedly experiencing health problems while being held in isolation.

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The three jailed parliament members, who were elected to office in December while imprisoned, were arrested in 2014 as part of sweeping arrests made by the Maduro administration following deadly demonstrations. The 2014 protests, partly organized by jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, called for better security, an end to food shortages and enhanced freedom of speech for citizens, but the protests turned deadly -- about 43 people died, both government supporters and opponents.

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Guevara-Rosas said "Venezuela presents one of the worst crossroads in recent history" for the "serious violations" of constitutionally guaranteed civil and political rights. She also warned against a decrease in respect for human rights in Latin America that is not attributed to financial issues but to a "political and moral" crisis.

The opposition is continuing to put pressure on Venezuela's National Electoral Council, or CNE, over a recall referendum process that has been delayed by the electoral body. On Monday, thousands of opposition members gathered in Caracas to demand the CNE authorize the nearly 2 million signatures the opposition gathered to move forward with the recall petition process. The CNE only required less than 200,000 for the first phase but has stalled entering the second phase of the process due to "irregularities" in the signatures collected.

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In April, Venezuela's highest court ruled unconstitutional an amnesty bill passed by the National Assembly that would have released up to 110 political prisoners. The court has been criticized for acting as an extension of the socialist regime established under late former President Hugo Chavez.

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