After a process full of irregularities (the refusal to allow the defense to present evidence and witnesses, refusal to comply with a public trial preventing access to journalists, citizens or international observers, or the continuous interference in the process by the President himself and other Chavista leaders as Diosdado Cabello), Leopoldo Lopez was convicted in a show trial to almost 14 years imprisonment.
For the kind of justice that operates in Venezuela right now, no hint of independence, subjected and servile to the executive power, the Venezuelan opposition leader is “guilty of fire, damage, conspiracy and public incitement”. But nobody can deny that his only crime is to be the leader of a political party, Voluntad Popular, and to have an increasing support among society.
Leopoldo persecution is not new. Back in 2008, Hugo Chavez got him out of the elections disabling him alleging corruption. In 2011, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) annulled that prohibition by considering an arbitrary decision for political purposes.
But now, in 2015, he is pursued not to clear the way of opponents. Maduro’s popularity is very low and the proximity of the December elections terrifies him. Citizens blame the Government of the unsustainable situation they have led Venezuela: economic collapse unprecedented censorship, extreme restriction of fundamental rights, insecurity, inflation and a serious shortage that has put the country on the brink of bankruptcy and in a real humanitarian crisis. At disproportionate military responses to peaceful protests, jailing political opponents (including public officials as mayors Ceballos and Lezama, and countless students), and countless denunciations of magnicide and other conspiracies, now joins the border conflict with Colombia.
Maduro’s bet by the authoritarian bullying and hostility brought to the caricature of the “economic war” has led him to rule against his people. A more discontent and protest, more repression. A dynamic than last year cost the lives of 43 innocent citizens following student protests that began in February. But neither that slaughter or the image of Kluivert Roa, a 14 year old boy murdered by a member of the Bolivarian National Police in a peaceful protest, served to mobilize the international community determination to defend human rights in Venezuela.
This intolerable silence also happens now after the condemnation of Leopoldo. Inaction is especially poignant in many Latin American countries, key to the Maduro’s regime impunity.
The European Union can not join this warmth against the sentence of Leopoldo. The High Representative Mogherini must lead internationally the demand to the Venezuelan government to release Leopoldo López and the other political prisoners. The case of Leopoldo López is a new test for the EU to show that remains a model of democratic values in the world. The nomination of Mesa de Unidad Democrática to the Sakharov Prize 2015 will, undoubtedly, contribute to the effectiveness of coordinated diplomatic and political action.
UPyD commitment to human rights is unequivocal and universal. That is the reason why we do not do distinctions when denouncing human rights violations depending on where they occur. So we have always condemned and we will condem every abuse of the Venezuelan government. On the day when the sentence of Leopoldo López was known, we tried to hand deliver a letter of rejection to the Venezuelan ambassador to Madrid. However, he did not handle our request. We did not even allowed us the access to the Embassy. The same has happened in the headquarters of the Embassy to the EU in Brussels. In spite all this, I can assure that we will continue to develop all actions, using all available instruments, intended to demand the restoration of democracy and freedom in Venezuela. We will not stop until we involve the Spanish and European institutions in this just cause.
The case of Leopoldo López should serve to show the degeneration of democracy that embodies Nicolas Maduro’s regime. And for us, the Democrats, will be a test of our commitment to the defense of our universal values of respect and defense of freedom and human rights.//