Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on his country’s highest court Thursday to strike down a controversial amnesty law approved by legislators last week.
Maduro said the legislation has already been met with “disgust” by the public, and warned it could destabilise the country.
“If this law is approved, Venezuela will enter into a cycle of civil war. We cannot allow it,” he said while announcing plans to challenge the legislation in the Supreme Court (TSJ).
Maduro himself cannot veto the legislation.
The amnesty law has been approved by the National Assembly (AN), which is controlled by Maduro’s political rivals, the right-wing MUD coalition. While the MUD has claimed the legislation will free dozens of what they call “political prisoners”, Maduro has accused the AN of giving blanket amnesty to criminals charged with serious crimes including inciting violence.
Among those who could be freed under the legislation are participants in a short lived 2002 coup and a wave of anti-government violence in 2014 that left dozens dead.
The legislation is likely to struggle to pass the TSJ, which has repeatedly overruled the AN since the MUD took control of the legislature earlier this year.
While the amnesty law has emerged as a priority for MUD legislators, the legislation has been fiercely opposed by Maduro and his supporters. In Caracas, thousands of Chavistas rallied Thursday to protest against the legislation.
“I’m marching against the amnesty law because it supports rogues, and violates human rights,” protester Antonio Sequera told state news agency AVN.
The rally ended at Miraflores Palace, where protesters handed the government a petition condemning the amnesty law.
More than 2.5 million Venezuelans had signed the petition. Caracas mayor and Maduro ally Jorge Rodriguez welcomed the document, while condemning the amnesty law.
“It promotes … war, destruction, impunity, violence, disdain and contempt for human life,” Rodriguez said.