Venezuela's Maduro pardons dozens of political opponents

A man wearing a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic passes a mural of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Analysts say that in recent months the pandemic has helped suck away the oppositions scanty momentum and bolster Maduros already strong hand. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CARACAS – The Venezuelan government said Monday that it had pardoned more than 100 people, including dozens of political opponents who are in prison, have taken refuge in foreign embassies in Caracas or fled the country.

The move comes ahead of congressional elections set for Dec. 6 that the coalition led by U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó says it is boycotting because conditions for the vote are not fair.

The names listed in the pardon don’t include prominent opposition leaders such as Leopoldo López, who remains inside a foreign ambassador’s residence in Caracas, or Julio Borges, a powerful opposition lawmaker who is in neighboring Colombia.

Relatives of some people on the list who were detained in a Caracas-area prisons rushed to its gates following the government's announcement.

The Caracas-based prisoner rights group Foro Penal said 50 of those to be pardoned were what the opposition considers politically motivated. Roughly two dozen are lawmakers in the National Assembly.

Minister of Communications Jorge Rodríguez listed 110 people being pardoned, although the terms of the announced amnesty were not clear.

“The government's intention is to deepen the process of reconciliation for national unity so that political issues are settled by peaceful means and by electoral means,” Rodríguez said.

Maduro's government framed the presidential decree as a goodwill gesture to boost participation in the upcoming election. It wasn't immediately clear whether jailed political actors would walk free and those seeking refuge in foreign embassies would step out the gates without fearing reprisals.