Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Obama to Venezuelan Gov’t: Free Leopoldo López

U.S. President Barack Obama urged Venezuelan authorities to liberate imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo López as soon as possible.

“From Russia to China to Venezuela, you are seeing relentless crackdowns vilifying legitimate dissent as subversive…we stand in solidarity with those detained at this very moment.  In Venezuela, Leopoldo López,” said Obama during a speech at the Clinton Global Initiative on Tuesday night. 

Aside from López, Obama mentioned other jailed activists from countries like Vietnam, Burundi and Russia who “deserve to be freed.  They should be freed.”

López has been detained for the past seven months, and charged with inciting vandalism and violence during anti-government demonstrations in February. Shortly after López turned himself in to authorities, Obama denounced the “unacceptable violence” in Venezuela and criticized officials for not “focusing on the legitimate demands of the Venezuelan people.”

Detractors of the Popular Will Party leader claimed that he must be punished for instigating politically charged violence that eventually cost the lives of more than forty people.  Last month, President Nicolás Maduro referred to López as a “pawn of the gringos” who “has to pay and he will pay,” for his alleged crimes.

Yet supporters of López believe the charges against the ex-mayor of the Chacao district of Caracas were politically motivated by a government seeking to quash dissent.

“Leopoldo is a prisoner of conscience and is in jail because Maduro is scared,” said López’ wife, Lillian Tintori, last week during a visit to the U.N.

López’ trial has been delayed on at least five occasions with the most recent postponement taking place this week.

Maduro has thus far not replied to Obama’s remarks on López though he could get his chance when he speaks at the U.N. General Assembly later today.  

Earlier this week, former Venezuelan police commander Ivan Simonovis was granted a “humanitarian” house arrest “so he can be cured of his illnesses and can receive medical treatment.”

Obama also praised Cuban dissident activist Berta Soler who has had to “endure harassment and arrest in order to win freedom for their loved ones and for the Cuban people”.

Soler has led the Ladies in White protest group that since 2003 has called on the freeing of all of Cuba’s political prisoners.  Authorities have accused the group of being funded by the U.S and police have occasionally detained members of the Ladies. 

Though the Ladies have created greater awareness of the abuses committed under the Castro regime, they have faced their own troubles including thirty members who abandoned the campaign this month due to “serious indiscipline.”

Video Source – euronews via YouTube (Venezuelan opposition activist Leopoldo López gave himself in to police last February).

Online Sources –; The Latin Americanist; LAHT;; Voz de America;

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