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Draft Law to Punish State Crimes Passed

Pro-opposition Congressmen Abstained from Voting

On Tuesday, a draft law to punish politically-motivated state crimes from 1958-1998 was passed in first discussion by the Venezuelan National Assembly.

From 1958 to 1988, period of the so called “representative democracy,” a number of selective forced disappearances and murders of popular and leftist leaders took place in Venezuela.

The draft law considers three main aspects, firstly, to throw light on what happened in each of the cases of deaths and forced disappearances during that period. Secondly, to apply justice so all the responsible people can be investigated and punished. Thirdly, to honor the victims’ families by including this part of the Venezuelan history in curricula, making public the revolutionary struggle during the 70s, 80s and 90s in Venezuela, among other initiatives.

The law also aims to create a Commission of True and Justice, an investigation initiative made up by eight members of different governmental criminal investigation-related agencies and nine families or friends of the victims of the 1958-1998 state crimes.

Additionally, the Law Against Silence and Oblivion, as it is know, includes declassification of documents archived in police and military corps, which will clarify the events where at least 4,000 people were killed during executions and massacres. The whereabouts of over 1,000 disappeared people are also expected to be revealed.

A chapter for the “historical memory” will also be included in the law to spread the facts through educational institutions.

Besides tortures and executions, these state crimes include forced disappearances, which were first implemented in Venezuela under the government of Raúl Leoni (1964-1969, Acción Democrática party).

The draft-law must be discussed in a second round so it can be definitively approved by the Parliament.

Pro-opposition Congressmen Abstained from Voting to Pass the Law

During the discussion at the National Assembly, pro-opposition deputies abstained from voting to pass this law to investigate the crimes, much of whom are related to he political parties that favored the violations of human rights in the country during that period of time.

“The Venezuelan opposition, which is claiming all the time at the OAS for the human rights of Leopoldo López [pro-opposition leader who has an administrative sanction for embezzlement, which prevents  him to take a public post] abstained from voting because they don’t want to know about the past,” said Venezuelan journalist Miguel Ángel Pérez, during his opinion television show broadcast by the sate-run channel.

For her part, Iris Varela, deputy for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, said, “We want justice and unmask those people who claim that their human rights are being violated, while the have thousands of deaths behind their backs.”

Correo del Orinoco / Press Office – Venezuelan Embassy to the U.S. / June 22, 2011

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