Venezuela’s high court rejects amnesty law for opposition

CARCAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Monday declared unconstitutional legislation passed by the opposition-controlled congress to free dozens of jailed politicians who are foes of President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.

The decision by the government-stacked high court had been expected after Maduro criticized the law as an attempt to destabilize his rule and pardon activists he blames for deadly unrest in 2014.

The court ruled the legislation could not stand because it allowed for impunity, echoing the language Maduro has been using for months to attack the proposal.

Congressional leaders are demanding the bill be enacted despite the ruling from what they see as a lapdog court, but it is unlikely to take effect in the wake of the ruling.

Among those who would have been freed by the amnesty law is Leopoldo Lopez, who led the 2014 anti-government protests that resulted in dozens of deaths. He is serving a nearly 14-year sentence for allegedly provoking violence during those protests.

The legislation was a key campaign promise during the 2015 legislative race that gave the opposition control of congress for the first time in more than a decade.

The opposition promised to make freeing jailed activists its first priority, and this was the first major piece of legislation passed by the new congress. Several foreign governments have expressed support for the proposal.

The Supreme Court has thwarted nearly all congressional action this year, overturning attempts to limit the president’s power, preventing congress from exercising more control over institutions and preventing some lawmakers from taking their seats.

Congressional leaders have now turned their attention to seeking a recall election for Maduro and trying to reshape the top court.

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