‘Truth Commission’ Means End Of Free Speech For Venezuela

In late July, Venezuela saw the formation of a new political body called the National Constituent Assembly. This was decided through a vote, which is now highly contested as reporting false numbers. President Nicolas Maduro called for the vote which led to the establishment of the staunch pro-government assembly.

Critics have called the assembly an attempt to take power away from the people and undermine the opposition (as the assembly contains few opposition members). Since its formation, the committee appears to prove these allegations time and time again; first with the ousting of vehement opponent attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz and now with the formation of a so-called ‘truth commission.’

The commission is set to investigate opposition candidates running for the upcoming gubernatorial position. The purpose is to ensure they have not been involved in violent political protests.

Opposition candidates running in Venezuela’s October gubernatorial elections will be investigated to make sure none were involved in violent political protests this year. Essentially, the commission wishes to prevent those who incite violence from taking positions of power. Political strongman Diosdado Cabello said, “We’re asking of the Justice and Truth Commission that anyone who has acted against the fatherland be stripped of public duties.”

Delcy Rodriguez, who has been named leader of both the National Constituent Assembly and the truth commission, shared the belief that assembly believes “right-wing terrorists” are to blame for the violence at protests, and “acts of violence carried out with political motives or out of intolerance.”

However, the opposition holds a number of concerns as to the true purpose of this group. According to President Maduro, “The truth commission can try anyone.” This is concerning, as it gives the commission a veritable free pass to pursue anyone in opposition of the government currently in place.

Furthermore, the commission has not been clear as to what punishments will be carried out to those found guilty, as well as how the proceedings will occur. The lack of transparency concerns many, who fear this is yet another attack on freedom of speech.

Tulio Alvarez, constitutional law professor and chairman of the Central University of Venezuela’s law school, spoke on the matter, saying, “The truth is the definition of events such as they occurred — not manipulating them. This commission is designed for the opposite goal. It’s to say, hiding the truth.”

This is yet another step taken by President Maduro to silence his opposition. Following the formation of the group, on top of ousting Ortega, Maduro jailed two prominent opposition leaders, who were later released.

Even more troubling is a decree passed that prevents the opposition-led legislature from taking action which would interfere with the National Constituent Assembly, essentially stripping them of their power. The message appears to be those who oppose the regime will be punished unless they keep their ideas to themselves.

However, in order to fight this authoritarian regime, the opposition must continue to speak out against President Maduro. They must make clear to the world and the public of Venezuela that he does not have the nation’s best interest in mind, only his.

International communities, who have expressed outrage at President Maduro’s recent actions, must take a stand. US President Donald Trump must carry out the threat of extending sanctions on those tied to Maduro. Other nations need to follow suit. The public must take a stand and challenge Maduro’s attempts to end freedom of speech and take power away from the people. If such actions do not take place, President Maduro will continue to gain power and Venezuela may further crumble.

Jordan Meyerl