Nicolas Maduro. Photograph:( AFP )
Venezuela's announcement of the pardons on Monday came a day after Maduro claimed to be supporting measures to bring 'reconciliation' and 'dialogue' to the deeply polarized South American country ahead of December legislative elections.
President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday invoked India's independence hero Mahatma Gandhi to explain the pardon of more than 100 opposition lawmakers and associates of opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Venezuela's announcement of the pardons on Monday came a day after Maduro claimed to be supporting measures to bring "reconciliation" and "dialogue" to the deeply polarized South American country ahead of December legislative elections.
The opposition figures, including more than 20 legislators who had been accused of conspiring against Maduro, were pardoned as the country heads toward parliamentary elections in December.
Maduro said the pardons were a path towards peace.
Those pardoned via a presidential decree include legislator Freddy Guevara, who sought asylum in the Chilean diplomatic residence, as well as Roberto Marrero, who had served as chief of staff to opposition leader and congress chief Juan Guaido.
Many of those mentioned participated in a failed 2019 rebellion that sought to persuade the military to drop their backing for Maduro but ultimately failed to sway top commanders. Some of those pardoned are imprisoned, while others have sought diplomatic asylum or are in exile.
Opposition leaders say Maduro's 2018 re-election was fraudulent, and have recognised Guaido as the legitimate president. More than 50 other countries, including the United States, followed suit.
US dismisses pardoning
The United States on Tuesday downplayed Maduro's pardon warning not to be fooled by the "token" measures.
"Neither the Venezuelan people nor international community will be fooled by these token & transparent acts," tweeted Michael Kozak, the acting assistant secretary of the Western Hemisphere division at the US State Department.
Let's not forget that Maduro continues to arbitrarily detain 100's of political prisoners. Neither the Venezuelan people nor international community will be fooled by these token & transparent acts. Democracy can only prevail when all conditions for free & fair elections are met.— Michael G. Kozak (@WHAAsstSecty) September 1, 2020
Kozak emphasized: "Let's not forget that Maduro continues to arbitrarily detain 100's of political prisoners."
Guaido and leading opposition figures have already vowed to boycott those polls over a lack of transparency.
In January 2019, National Assembly speaker Guaido challenged Maduro's authority by declaring himself acting president, quickly receiving the backing of more than 50 countries including the United States.
US President Donald Trump has been a staunch Guaido ally, and has increased pressure on the leftist Maduro regime with a series of sanctions.
Washington has also accused Maduro of "narcoterrorism" and placed a $15 million bounty on his head.