* Opposition present more than 100 names to government
* Cases include judge who says she was raped in prison
* Chavez denies political prisoners exist in Venezuela
By Diego Ore
CARACAS, Dec 7 Venezuela's opposition is
pressing President Hugo Chavez for a Christmas amnesty for
scores of his foes in jail and exile over their roles in the
many political conflicts of his 14-year rule.
They hope that after a comfortable re-election in October,
followed by reconciliatory words about opponents, the socialist
leader may be feeling more generous.
Fanning optimism among relatives and opposition circles,
three heavyweight Chavez allies - the vice president, head of
Congress and the attorney general - have agreed to study a list
of more than 100 names presented by an opposition commission
Perhaps the most controversial case is that of a judge,
Maria Lourdes Afiuni, who was jailed in 2009 after defying
Chavez in a corruption case. She shocked Venezuelans with an
account of being raped in jail and then having an abortion.
Also on the list are Pedro Carmona, who was president for a
day during a brief 2002 coup against Chavez and then fled to
Colombia; Manuel Rosales, a former presidential candidate
accused of corruption and now in Peru; and Ivan Simonovis, a
former security official wanted over deaths during the coup.
"We want the many exiled Venezuelans to come home, and for
the government's political prisoners to be freed. That would be
real proof of a will to promote dialogue and reconciliation,"
opposition commission head Antonio Ledezma said.
Chavez, who returned to Venezuela from medical treatment in
Cuba on Friday, has not spoken publicly on the
The opposition's list includes 87 people living outside
Venezuela and 22 listed as "political prisoners." Chavez rejects
that term, saying any opponents in jail are there for breaking
the law, not because of their views on him.
JAIL RAPE ALLEGATION
Given the deep polarization in Venezuela during the Chavez
years, and still-open wounds around big events like the 2002
violence, many of his supporters oppose clemency.
"I'm against any amnesty for these criminals," tweeted
American-Venezuelan lawyer Eva Golinger, who is a prominent
advocate of the Chavez government.
The proposal highlights a wider debate inside and outside
Venezuela over Chavez's rights record.
Critics say he has bullied opponents and trampled on basic
rights as he sought to impose a Cuba-style dictatorship, while
supporters laud him for taking on a wealthy and once-powerful
elite and making them subject to the law.
In the case of Afiuni, Chavez raged against her on national
TV, calling her a "bandit" and urging a 30-year prison sentence
in 2009 after she freed a local businessman, Eligio Cedeno,
accused of subverting currency controls.
Cedeno quickly fled to the United States.
Prosecutors accuse Afiuni of taking a bribe, but the
48-year-old judge insists she was legally obliged to release him
because his right to a free trial was being violated.
With her case still dragging through the courts, Afiuni said
in an interview with a journalist for a book published last
month that she was raped in 2010 and had an abortion in custody.
Amid outrage from Afiuni's supporters and rights groups,
Venezuelan Prisons Minister Iris Varela said the allegation was
an "odious hoax" intended to whip up hysteria over her case.
Now under house arrest, Afiuni is prohibited from speaking
to the media, although she occasionally expresses herself on her
"They're afraid of what she might say," her brother, Nelson
Afiuni, said outside court.
Another sensitive case is that of Simonovis, a 51-year-old
former Caracas police commissioner who is serving a 30-year
sentence for deaths that happened during shooting near Chavez's
presidential palace amid a brief coup in 2002.
Relatives say Simonovis, who is held in a small windowless
cell with just an hour outside once a week, is suffering from
osteoporosis and needs an urgent transfer to hospital.
"I welcome this initiative," Simonovis said in a letter to
media about the amnesty proposal. "Once again, I urge
Venezuelans to show massive, democratic and solid support to