Opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez' Letter from Military Prison
Leopoldo Lopez is a Venezuelan opposition leader who turned himself in to authorities last month after he was charged with committing murder and terrorism. Lopez has spent more than a month in a military prison as President Maduro worked to crush the remaining opposition.
Wednesday a letter from Lopez describing the situation in Venezuela was published in the NY Times:
15 years, the definition of “intolerable” in this country has declined
by degrees until, to our dismay, we found ourselves with one of the
highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere, a 57 percent inflation
rate and a scarcity of basic goods unprecedented outside of wartime.
crippled economy is matched by an equally oppressive political climate.
Since student protests began on Feb. 4, more than 1,500 protesters have
been detained and more than 50 have reported that they were tortured
while in police custody. Over 30 people, including security forces and
civilians, have died in the demonstrations. What started as a peaceful
march against crime on a university campus has exposed the depth of this
government’s criminalization of dissent.
Lopez highlight his own arrest on trumped up charges and the recent arrests of two opposition Mayors. Lopez says a series of steps are necessary to "move forward." These include reigning in armed "colectivos" who are believed responsible for many of the deaths in the past six weeks. In addition, Lopez calls for the release of jailed protesters and an investigation into "fraud committed through our commission for currency exchange."
But Lopez overall goals for Venezuela are broader and more basic. He concludes:
We must advocate for human rights; freedom of expression; the right to
property, housing, health and education; equality within the judicial
system, and, of course, the right of protest. These are not radical
goals. They are the basic building blocks of society.