DPA / Bogota
The European Union yesterday criticised Venezuela’s decision to strip four members of the opposition-dominated National Assembly of their parliamentary immunity, calling it “another direct attack on the only democratically elected body” in the country.
The decision was taken on by the pro-government Constituent Assembly, which was created in 2017 and started functioning as a parallel parliament, sidelining the National Assembly, or congress.
The Constituent Assembly accepted a request from the Supreme Court to lift the immunity of Jose Guerra, Rafael Guzman, Tomas Guanipa and Juan Pablo Garcia Canales on charges including treason and incitement to rebellion. The decision was “arbitrary and politically motivated,” said a statement issued by Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs and security policy.
“So far, 25 lawmakers have been accused by means of flawed processes and were stripped of their constitutionally granted immunity,” the statement added. “A peaceful and political solution can only be achieved, if their political work is not criminalized and parliamentary activities are not repressed.”
The Inter-Parliamentary Union, a global organisation of national parliaments, also criticised the move on Monday. “These violations of the due process are serious violations of human rights and an attack against democracy in Venezuela,” IPU president Gabriela Cuevas tweeted.
In another move, the Constituent Assembly announced the creation of a commission that will consider setting an early date for elections of the National Assembly. Regular elections are not due until late 2020. Opposition leader Juan Guaido said such plans were aimed at dissolving congress and at preventing it from criticising President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
Neighbouring Colombia yesterday joined the criticism expressed by Guaido. “The government of Colombia reiterates its firm support for the National Assembly of Venezuela and for its lawmakers, who are being persecuted by Maduro’s illegitimate and tyrannical regime, while rejecting early elections of this legitimate assembly,” Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo tweeted.
Maduro won a second term in an election boycotted by most of the opposition last year. He has presided over an economic meltdown and is engaged in a power struggle with Guaido, who has won the backing of dozens of countries for his campaign to oust the president.
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