Maduro seeks ‘kangaroo’ courts where anyone can go on trial in Venezuela
President Maduro’s government is establishing a “truth commission” that critics warn will be used as a kangaroo court to persecute the opposition.
Mr Maduro, who has faced more than four months of protest against his rule, told state media “the truth commission can try anyone”.
It will be led by Delcy Rodríguez, an ultra-loyalist former foreign minister who also serves as president of Venezuela’s new constituent assembly, a controversial body with sweeping authority which the government is using as an alternative legislature to the opposition-controlled, but now powerless, parliament.
Ms Rodríguez said work would begin immediately to investigate “acts of violence carried out with political motives or out of intolerance”.
Delsa Solózarno, an opposition MP, said that “the truth commission will be an inquisition chamber to persecute those that think differently”.
The left-wing government is targeting all non-loyalist mayors in Venezuela, accusing them of acting in league with protesters by allowing demonstrations. Half of the country’s 77 opposition mayors are facing trial, in jail or in exile.
On Monday the Supreme Court, another institution controlled by the presidency, sentenced Ramón Muchacho, mayor of the once-affluent Chacao district of Caracas, to 15 months in jail.
Mr Muchacho is in hiding. There were reports that he may have left the country. David Smolansky, another popular Caracas mayor, was given a 15-month jail sentence for similar offences last night.
Diosdado Cabello, a presidential adviser and former army lieutenant who is seen as one of the most powerful men in Venezuela, has said that immunity should be removed from opposition MPs deemed “traitors”.
He said: “We’re asking of the justice and truth commission that anyone who has acted against the fatherland be stripped of public duties.”
More than 125 people have been killed in political demonstrations against the Maduro government since April. According to a report released by the United Nations Human Rights Office, at least 46 of those deaths have been caused by “widespread and systematic use of excessive force on the part of security forces”.
The UN also noted “groups of demonstrators have also resorted to violence, with attacks reported against security officers”.
Venezuela in crisis
Understanding the turbulent past of the South American nation and the recent political fallout
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Venezuela’s economy has contracted by more than a third during the past four years. Rampant corruption, a collapse in productivity and byzantine price controls have worsened the impact of the global fall in the price of oil, the country’s only significant export.
In one sign of the regional isolation of Venezuela, all the large nations in Latin America, including Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, have signed a joint statement saying they will not recognise any legislation passed by the constituent assembly. All 13 signatories declared that Venezuela was no longer a democracy.
Venezuelan state media said yesterday that it had discovered a cache of arms in the Carabobo state, which it said had been left by men who raided an army barracks on Sunday. The government says ten of the “mercenaries” that led the raid remain at large.
In another sign of the chaotic security situation, a Venezuelan man was shot dead at the national terminal of the main Caracas airport.
Security video showed Kelvin José Valbuena Alvarado being shot in the head, at point blank range, by a gunman who escaped on a motorbike. The motive remains unclear. Several airlines have stopped flying to Caracas, citing security fears.