Venezuela government says it has pardoned more than 50 opposition politicians

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela said on Monday it has pardoned more than 50 opposition politicians including 20 legislators who had mostly been accused of conspiring against President Nicolas Maduro, as the country heads toward parliamentary elections scheduled for December.

The effort signals that the ruling Socialist Party is seeking to boost participation in the upcoming vote, which part of the opposition had vowed to boycott on the grounds that it is rigged.

Those pardoned include legislator Freddy Guevara, who sought asylum in the residence of the Chilean ambassador, as well as Roberto Marrero, who had served as chief of staff to opposition leader and congress chief Juan Guaido.

“We hope that all of these measures taken by the Bolivarian government help maintain the democratic focus of all of these political actors,” Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in a press conference.

Rights groups have harshly criticized Venezuela’s government for arbitrarily jailing adversaries, often on charges made with little or no evidence and in violation of basic due process and parliamentary immunity of legislators.

Maduro’s government has in the past released small groups of jailed opposition leaders, but those releases have typically been followed by more such arrests.

The government denies holding political prisoners and says such accusations are part of U.S.-backed efforts to tarnish its image.

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