After years of a long political confrontation in Venezuela the unconditional release of María Lourdes Afiuni would undoubtedly be an important step. However, it is estimated that 590 people are still in the same situation: without trial, for political reasons and under hostile circumstances.
Everything indicates that this is the right time for Nicolás Maduro to release all political prisoners. Venezuela is facing the most serious humanitarian collapse in Latin America recently due to years of constant political deterioration, an economic collapse along with almost total international isolation and overwhelming economic sanctions imposed by the United States. As a result, four million Venezuelans have fled their country, creating tensions and chaos in neighboring countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Peru.
The release of prisoners was a fundamental decision to resolve the conflict in Northern Ireland, which lasted for decades and destroyed the social fabric of that part of the world. This decision led to the recognition of the political nature of the conflict, irrespective of bloodshed, and eventually opened up the possibility of reaching a peace agreement and the normalization of the political situation. It seems that Maduro is at a similar critical moment, where he could act firmly and come out of the stalemate where previous attempts to reach political solutions in Venezuela have failed.
The role he has adopted for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the evaluation of the human rights situation in Venezuela may be an opportunity to reach a negotiated solution after unsuccessful attempts to promote a political dialogue between the government of Maduro and the opposition. New meetings in Norway, Sweden and Barbados can offer a path to free and fair elections that would solve the country's political stalemate. The ball has begun to roll and for those of us working in the field of Afiuni, it is clear that the best possible solution would be a political agreement leading to a transitional period during which it is possible to recover democratic institutions, concluding to the humanitarian crisis and reversing the economic crisis, so that Venezuela can rise again.
The release of Afiuni is something to celebrate and we do it with all our hearts. However, it can also lead to a more solid way of finding a political solution in Venezuela. We urge Maduro to release all political prisoners, both military and civilian. That decision would show the world that he and the other leaders of his government are willing to advance in the restoration of the Venezuelan nation. In Venezuela, it would be a major step that could encourage opposition leaders, who are today skeptical, to seek a negotiated settlement among all Venezuelans. It can be a crucial moment to make free and fair elections that resolve one of the most complex political knots on the American continent recently.
At the beginning of the process Judge María Lourdes Afiuni's detention, Boris Muñoz ̵
Leonardo Vivas is a professor of international politics at Emerson College, Noam Chomsky is a professor at the University of Arizona and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Charlie Clements is the former executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Kennedy School of Harvard.
CRISIS IN VENEZUELA, HUGO CHÁVEZ, NICOLÁS MADURO, POLITICAL PRISONES, VENEZUELA