Venezuelan opposition meets to set legislative agenda

Jesus "Chuo" Torrealba (C) gives a speech next to Venezuelan deputy for the Accion Democratica party Henry Ramos Allup (R) and Deputy elect for the National Assembly Fredy Guevara (L) during a press conference in Caracas on December 11, 2015 (AFP Photo/Juan Barreto)

Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela's opposition met Friday to set its legislative agenda after winning a landslide victory in the National Assembly, but is already on a collision course with leftist President Nicolas Maduro.

One of the opposition's first moves when the new legislative session opens on January 5 will likely be to pass an amnesty law for what it says are some 80 political prisoners who have been unjustly jailed, said lawmaker Tomas Guanipa.

Maduro has vowed to veto any such bill.

"The National Assembly has the armor of the constitution," Guanipa told journalists outside the hotel where the opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), was meeting to finalize its agenda.

"We can pass the amnesty law in our first session... Let Mr Maduro keep fighting all by himself."

The most prominent of the jailed opposition figures is Leopoldo Lopez, the Harvard-educated leader of the Popular Will party.

He was sentenced in September to nearly 14 years on charges of inciting violence at anti-government protests last year that left 43 people dead.

His conviction was strongly condemned by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.

The opposition's victory in the December 6 legislative elections put an end to the 16-year monopoly on power of the leftist movement founded by late leader Hugo Chavez, Maduro's predecessor.

But even though MUD won a resounding two-thirds majority, political analysts say its powers will be limited because of Venezuela's strong presidential system.

Guanipa said the opposition would also prioritize work on a "new economic model" for Venezuela, which is mired in crisis as crashing crude prices curtail the socialist government's ability to rely on oil wealth to cover lavish subsidies and social spending.

Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) meanwhile plans to use the final days of the current legislative session to name 12 judges to the Supreme Court of Justice, a move condemned by the opposition, which says the candidates are partisan.

MUD executive secretary Jesus Torrealba urged the "moribund National Assembly" not to act against "the will for change expressed at the ballot box."

Maduro has already taken to calling the legislature the "bourgeois Assembly," and has vowed to combat its plans to "impose a neoliberal model dictated by the United States."