Venezuela's Socialist-run 'truth commission' to investigate opposition
CARACASOpposition candidates running in Venezuela's October gubernatorial elections will be investigated to make sure none were involved in violent political protests this year, the head of a new pro-government truth commission said on Aug. 16.
The panel was set up earlier in the day by the constituent assembly elected last month at the behest of socialist President Nicolas Maduro. Government critics say the commission is designed to sideline the opposition and bolster the ruling party's flagging support ahead of the October vote.
Also before the assembly is a bill that would punish those who express "hate or intolerance" with up 25 years in jail. The opposition fears such a law would be used to silence criticism of a government that, according to local rights group Penal Forum is, is already holding 676 political prisoners.
"Whoever goes into the streets to express intolerance and hatred, will be captured and will be tried and punished with sentences of 15, 20, 25 years of jail," Maduro said last week.
Over 120 people have died in four months of protests against the president's handling of an economy beset by triple-digit inflation and acute food shortages.
Maduro loyalist Delcy Rodriguez was named as head of the truth commission, on top of being president of the assembly. She said she would ask the country's CNE elections authority for information about candidates running in October.
"We have decided to ask the CNE to send a complete list of gubernatorial candidates to the truth commission in order to determine if any of the them were involved in incidents of violence," Rodriguez told the assembly, stressing this would have a "cleansing effect" on Venezuela.
"We have seen tweets, messages on social networks and photographs of opposition leaders responsible for convening and organizing violent events in Venezuela," Rodriguez told the commission on Aug. 16.
Meanwhile, at least 37 people died in an hours-long jail riot in Venezuela’s southern state of Amazonas, officials said Aug. 16.
The prosecutors’ office said an investigation had been launched into “the deaths of 37 people” in the facility in the town of Puerto Ayacucho. It said 14 officials were wounded in the violence which ran from Aug. 15 into early Aug. 16, but did not say if any were among the dead.
Elsewhere, Venezuela authorities are investigating the theft of animals from a zoo in western state of Zulia that were likely snatched to be eaten, a further sign of hunger in a country struggling with chronic food shortages, Reuters reported.
A police official said two collared peccaries, which are similar in appearance to boars, were stolen over the weekend from the Zulia Metropolitan Zoological Park in the sweltering city of Maracaibo near the Colombian border.
“What we presume is that they (were taken) with the intention of eating them,” Luis Morales, an official for the Zulia division of the National Police, told reporters on Aug. 15.