Year anniv. of movement to release Venezuelan opposition leaders

World Today

A year ago Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was jailed in Venezuela. A move that sparked international calls for his release that continue today.
The government has insisted that Lopez must await his trial. CCTV’s Martin Markovits filed this report from Caracas.

Year anniv. of movement to release Venezuelan opposition leaders

Year anniv. of movement to release Venezuelan opposition leaders

A year ago Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was jailed in Venezuela. A move that sparked international calls for his release that continue today. The government has insisted that Lopez must await his trial. CCTV’s Martin Markovits filed this report from Caracas.

One year after Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in to Venezuelan authorities, a crowd gathered in Caracas Square to mark the year anniversary since he was jailed. They numbered far less than organizers had hoped for, but the emotions were strong.

Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori lashed out at President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.

“Leopoldo represents a national sentiment, he is in the hearts and minds of all Venezuelans,” Tintori said. “He represents change, the future of Venezuela and for this reason they kidnapped him. Maduro has kidnapped him because he fears for his leadership.”

Lopez, a former Caracas-area mayor, thrust himself into the spotlight when he broke away from Venezuela’s main opposition groups and led massive demonstrations against the government.

Those protests turned violent and left 43 people dead. He is on trial for conspiring to overthrow the government and has been kept in a military jail in what is largely described as horrible conditions. In February he was reportedly moved to a cell that measured just two meters by two meters.

Among those calling for his release are the U.S., Colombia, the United Nations and Human Right Watch, but across the city of Caracas, supporters of President Maduro have a very different view of the opposition leader. They say Lopez was the mastermind of violent anti-government protests that rocked the country last year.

Many accuse Lopez of being part of a large secret plot allied with Washington and right wing forces to destabilize the country and force the democratically elected Maduro out of office.

Lopez also comes from a wealthy politically connected family which has never been popular among the nation’s poor.

“He and a bunch of other people from the right wing with the help with the media provoked the middle class to create disorder in the country and topple Maduro,” Maduro supporter Julio Aragua said. “This is a middle class that is so individualist, so bourgeois and very dangerous.”

Despite calls for his release, the Maduro government has firmly held that the trial against Lopez must move forward.

Economic conditions in Venezuela are worse than ever with speculation that if Lopez were to regain his freedom, he could become the best candidate to face Maduro in the next presidential race.