The Venezuelan government has announced pardon for more than 100 people, including political opponents who are in prison, have sought refuge in foreign embassies in Caracas, or have fled the country.
The move comes ahead of congressional elections slated for Dec.6 that the movement led by US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó has said it is boycotting because voting conditions are unfair. .
The names listed in the pardon do not include prominent opposition leaders such as Leopoldo López, who remains in the residence of a foreign ambassador in Caracas, or Julio Borges, a powerful opposition lawmaker who is in neighboring Colombia.
Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez listed 110 people pardoned, although the terms of the announced amnesty are unclear.
“The intention of the government is to deepen the process of national reconciliation for national union so that political issues are resolved by peaceful means and by electoral means,” Rodríguez said.
Maduro’s government presented the presidential decree as a goodwill gesture to boost turnout in the upcoming elections. It was not immediately clear whether the imprisoned political actors would be free and those seeking refuge in foreign embassies would walk through the doors without fear of retaliation.
Venezuela is in the throes of an economic crisis that has forced more than 5 million people to flee in recent years, escaping the shortage of basic commodities and soaring inflation that has left many struggling with the poverty.
Guaidó has been waging a campaign backed by the United States and dozens of other countries for over a year to oust Maduro, who remains in power with the support of military and international allies such as Russia, China, Cuba, Turkey and Iran.
The announcement of the pardons comes a few days after the release by the authorities of the legislator under house arrest Juan Requesens, imprisoned for two years and accused of having participated in an unsuccessful attempt to attack President Nicolás Maduro with two drones that exploded during of an outdoor military ceremony.
Among the legislators listed in Maduro’s decree is Freddy Guevara, who has lived for more than two years in the residence of the Chilean ambassador in Caracas.
Two jailed lawmakers on the list are Renzo Prieto and Gilber Caro, while José Guerra, Tomás Guanipa and Mariela Magallanes live outside Venezuela fearing they will be arrested on charges of wanting to overthrow Maduro.
“Maduro is not our president and I am not a criminal,” opposition MP Americo De Grazia, who lives in exile, said on Twitter, addressing Maduro. “If you want to contribute to peace in Venezuela, forgive the country for this autocracy.”