Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro launched the new Truth, Justice, and Victims Reparation Commission on Tuesday as the country marks the anniversary of the 2002 coup attempt against former President Hugo Chavez.
Anniversary of Venezuela's 2002 Coup
The Commission is aimed at shedding light on human rights violations and preventing coups and other attempts to undermine democracy in the South American country, including the violent opposition blockades known as guarimbas that killed 43 people in 2014.
UNASUR General Secretary Ernesto Samper, who will accompany the Commission, spoke in support of the iniative at the launch ceremony in the Presidential Palace Miraflores, welcoming the opportunity to participate.
UNASUR chief Ernesto Samper speaks at Miraflores.
"This Comission offers Venezuelans the possibility of finding a true path of dialogue," said Samper, adding that it offers a framework to be able to "give visilibity to victims" and "guarantee non-repetition" of assaults on democratic order.
"I come from a country that has suffered a lot with the armed conflict ... we understand the sense of peace," Samper continued, referring to the over 50-year internal armed conflict in his home country of Colombia. "Peace doesn't revolve around the victimizers, but the victims."
Maduro has invited four representatives of the opposition, which controls the country’s National Assembly, to join and work with the Commission. The group will be coordinated by Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz, who Maduro said has had first hand experience “living the circumstances of the last 28 years.”
The initiative focuses on events that have taken place in Venezuela during the country’s Bolivarian Revolution, launched in 1999 with the election of Chavez, including the 2002 coup attempt.
Another Truth Commission was set up in 2011 with the approval of the Law Against Forgetting to investigate historical state repression and human rights violations, including torture and extrajudicial killings, committed during the country’s Fourth Republic from 1958-1998.
The Maduro government put forward the Turth, Justice, and Victims Reparation Commission at the beginning of this year after the election of an opposition-majority National Assembly promised to approve the Amnesty Law.
Venezuela’s opposition claims the law, passed last month, is designed for “political prisoners” such as jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, imprisoned over charges of public incitement of violence.
But leftist lawmakers argue that the law will serve to protect perpetrators of various crimes, as its scope ranges from misdemeanor charges to acts of political dissent involving explosives and firearms.
Like the new Commission, the Amnesty Law also covers the period since Chavez’s election, from 1999 to present. A high Venezuelan court has ruled the Amnesty Law unconstitutional.