23/04/18 | 15/11 (30/11/2015), BILATERAL | Lidia Soria. Brussels

The sentence against the opponent Leopoldo López joins, in the message, the majority of MEPs

Venezuela is the country that overshadows EU relations with Latin America. It divides eurodeputies from Latin American and its mention leaves a bitter taste when it is pronounced in Brussels. The situation of political prisoners in the country leaded by Nicolas Maduro alarms in Europe. The Commission and most groups in Parliament have spoken out before the final blow of the Venezuelan government: the sentence to 13 years, 9 months, 7 days and 12 hours of imprisonment against the opponent Leopoldo López.

The sentence could not be longer. It is the maximum he faced for the crimes of which he was accused of: conspiracy, public incitement, property damage and fire, always in relation to the violent events that took place during a demonstration against the government that he convened on February 12, 2014, and where three people died. Together with Lopez, four students were also arrested.

The sentence was considered unfair in Europe and the United States. From Brussels, the European Commission, through its External Action Service, reacted almost immediately. They requested the review of the sentence, which they considered “severe” following a “fair and transparent” process. “The trials of Mr. Leopoldo López, national coordinator of the Voluntad Popular Party, and the students Christian Holdack, Marcos Coello, Demian Martín and Angel González have not provided the accused adequate guarantees of transparency and a due legal process”, indicated the spokesmen.

They also lamented that independent observers could not attend the final phase of the trial, “obstracted by local security forces,” despite having a granted authorization by the judge. The news also caused commotion in most European parliamentary groups.

It also coincided with the day on which the EPP, together with MEPs Fernando Maura and Dita Charanzová (ALDE), proposed to the Venezuelan opposition to the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, represented by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (an electoral coalition created in 2008 to unify the opposition to the political party of President Hugo Chávez), and political prisoners. The European Parliament awards every year the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Created in 1988, it rewards personalities or groups that strive to defend human rights and fundamental freedoms. Last year, the award went to Denis Mukwege for his fight and protection of women from the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Venezuela has been very present this year in European politics. It all started with a debate in the European Parliament in March, at the request of the European People’s Party, in reaction to the death of a young student of 14 years old who was shot in the head when participating in a demonstration against the Government and against the imprisonment of Antonio Ledezma, Mayor of Caracas.

After the debate on the situation in the country, a visit to Brussels of one of the daughters of Ledezma took place seeking political backing to the arrest of his father. “I come to denounce the violation of human rights in Venezuela, to inform, to witness what is happening there. Not only the arrest of my father, but the violation of human rights, insecurity… rights that should be respected in a democratic country are not respected, “denounced Vanessa Ledezma at that moment.

“Democracy is not only making choices. Laws must be respected. Only because elections take place, it can not be said that there is full democracy… In Venezuela there is a dictatorship. It is evidenced by the arrest of my father and other political prisoners or because of the authorization of firearms in public demonstrations, well, recently a 14 year old boy was killed. They are unacceptable things in a country that should not have happened. How long Venezuelans will live a situation like this? “, she wondered.

In this context, the European Parliament adopted in March, by a comfortable majority, a resolution on Venezuela in calling on the Government of Nicolas Maduro for the immediate release of political prisoners in the country. A message from the European parliamentary groups to the Venezuelan government that was not accompanied by a similar statement from the European Commission.

The Commission rejected interpose sanctions on Venezuela, despite the step forward taken in this direction by the US government. The strength shown by President Barack Obama after announcing sanctions against senior officials of the country was seen in Brussels as a “bilateral” matter.

“Venezuelan authorities must immediately release all peaceful demonstrators, opposition leaders and students who were arbitrarily detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and fundamental rights”, it says the adopted resolution. It also specifically called for the release of opponents Antonio Ledezma, Leopoldo López and Daniel Ceballos, and their right to “receive medical attention and have immediate, private and regular access to their families and lawyers”.

They voted for the Popular, Socialist and Liberal block. Among conservatives, they all voted for but a MEP, who abstained. They joined the “yes” other three independent MEPs, two MEPs from the left wind GUE/NGL and six forming part of the not registered group. Among the Greens, 15 MEPs also voted in favor of it. Against, they voted almost entirely the group of the European left GUE/NGL, 17 eurodeputies within the group of independent, ten in the group of the unregistered and 19 MEPs belonging to the Greens.

The vote on this resolution was considered by the Ambassador of Venezuela to the European Union, Antonio García, as a resolution promoted by “political motivations”. “We believe it represents an interference in the Venezuelan internal affairs and it is an evidence that the Right and the extreme Right in the European Parliament are the sponsors of this resolution and other previous resolutions against our country, with clear political intentions in an election year in Venezuela and Spain “the ambassador explained.

The Latin American parliamentarians had the same perception. During the celebration of the EU-CELAC Summit (Community of Latin American and Caribbean states) last June, they unanimously demanded the non-interference by Europe in the internal affairs of Venezuela. “From the Latin American side we have said that self-determination was respected in Venezuela and that there is no room for interference. It is being diagnosed there are no free elections and there has been no evidence of fraud… We will not accept what has not happened. That’s one of the parts that do not match, and the other, it is that internal problems must be resolved internally, “said José Leonel Vásquez Búcaro, co-president of EuroLat (Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly).

The situation of political prisoners in the country left out of a text of conclusions that MEPs from both continents wanted to close in the summit. Most European parliamentary groups, where only the left GUE groups and the Greens are excluded, considered that there were “very dangerous drift in the Venezuelan democratic system”, demanding the end of political prisoners and the holding of “free to all on equal terms” elections. The claim of many MEPs is that only an improvement of democracy can solve internal conflict problems.//