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IPU decries hold on Venezuelan lawmakers

An international organization of 178 parliaments condemned the Venezuelan president’s government for barring lawmakers from going to a global assembly.

GENEVA (AN) — An international organization of 178 parliaments condemned Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government for barring lawmakers from traveling to a global assembly.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union said it has learned that members of Venezuela's parliament were prevented from leaving the country to attend the 140th IPU Assembly in Doha, Qatar this week.

IPU's Secretary General Martin Chungong, who formerly worked for Cameroon's National Assembly, said the international organization has been convening parliamentarians for 130 years and it was "unacceptable" that Venezuelan lawmakers were prevented from traveling to join the assembly.

"On behalf of the IPU, the president and the secretary general strongly condemn any measures taken by the Venezuelan authorities to obstruct members of the Venezuelan delegation from traveling," the organization said in a statement.

The Geneva-based IPU said its committee on the human rights of parliamentarians will consider what to do about the cases of more than 60 "persecuted" Venezuelan parliamentarians.

"The IPU calls on Mr. Maduro to allow the parliamentarians to travel without delay or impediment to ensure their participation in the Assembly," it said. "The IPU urges the Venezuelan authorities to return any confiscated passports to the concerned MPs and to give full guarantees that they can travel and return to Venezuela safely and without any threats."

In January, Venezuela's opposition-majority National Assembly declared Maduro’s 2018 re-election invalid and named the assembly’s president, Juan Guaidó, as the interim president of Venezuela until credible, free and fair elections could be held.

At least 50 nations have formally recognized Guaidó as the country’s legitimate leader.

With the backing of the military, Maduro has refused to concede power over the cash-poor, oil-rich nation, which suffers from severe hyperinflation and food and medicine shortages. An estimated 3 million people have fled the country since 2015.

Last week, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Venezuela’s government and opposition would allow it to deliver emergency aid. The decision marked the first time Maduro’s government has essentially acknowledged that his nation’s economy has all but collapsed and Venezuelans who cannot flee were in the grips of a severe humanitarian crisis.

Education for peace

The annual assembly meeting this year in Qatar functions as IPU's main political body and calls itself the only global forum of parliamentarians that addresses threats to peace, democracy and international development.

More than 1600 parliamentarians, United Nations partners and experts were expected to attend the meeting from April 6 to 10, which has an agenda that aims to cover a lot of ground.

"Under the overarching theme of education for peace, the assembly will also consider ways in which parliaments can boost gender equality, particularly in the region," the organization said, adding it would also consider measures on counterterrorism, human rights and renewable energy.

IPU's forum of women parliamentarians will consider ways to encourage more women to enter politics. Their ranks are growing; for example, the share of women in parliaments of the Middle East and North Africa was up to 18%, compared with 4% in 1995, the organization said.

Qatar's Shura Council, one of the two main branches of the nation's legislative body, was playing host to the IPU delegates expected from about 160 nations, including 80 speakers of parliament.

Others expected to attend included Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, UNESCO's special envoy for basic and higher education, and Spanish neurobiologist Dr. Rafael Yuste, co-director of Columbia University's Kavli Institute for Brain Science.