Venezuela: Political Prisoner’s Mother Forced to Disrobe in Front of Grandchildren

In a series of tweets, the wife of Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López has accused prison guards of forcing her to disrobe and “open my legs various times,” while doing the same to her mother-in-law, in front of the couple’s young children.

“While completely naked, they demanded I open my legs multiple times and checked even the underwear they took from me,” Lilian Tintori wrote on Twitter of her latest visit to her husband on Monday night. López is being held in the maximum security Ramo Verde federal prison. “They did the same to Leopoldo’s mother, but in the room with her were my children,” she added. “Manuela and Leopoldo Santiago saw everything.”

Manuela and Leopoldo Santiago López are 6 and 3 years old, respectively.

López’s mother, Antonieta López, described her ordeal on Twitter, as well: “Humiliations, aggressions, sadness, but the worst occurred yesterday,” she wrote on Tuesday. “Yesterday in Ramo Verde, they forced me to disrobe and open my legs in front of my grandchildren… what affected me the most was Manuela’s look while observing me in these conditions.”

“They have sought to separate us as a family, they have tortured Leopoldo psychologically with this treatment, as well as myself and, worst of all, my children,” Tintori later tweeted.

Opposition politicians are demanding a probe into the incident, calling for the head of the prison’s security system to be fired over the humiliating treatment of female guests of prisoners. María Corina Machado, opposition leader and former legislator, noted that this treatment is not uncommon among the female guests of prisoners of conscience. “The vile practice of ‘screening’ thousands of Venezuelan women visiting imprisoned relatives is the cruelest representation of this depraved regime. NO MORE,” Machado wrote on Twitter, adding that the practice “does not humiliate them, it elevates them. Strength, there is little time left” for the socialist government.

López, the leader of opposition Popular Will party, is serving a 13-year prison sentence for organizing a peaceful protest in February 2014. The socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro accused him of a number of crimes, including terrorism and arson, for calling for rallies to oppose the government’s policies. The prosecutor in charge of the case against López, Franklin Nieves, has since defected to the United States and told media the case he built against López was “100 percent false.” “Leopoldo López is innocent,” he told the Wall Street Journal in October, asking for forgiveness from his family, especially his children.

López is one of a number of Venezuela’s prominent opposition politicians that have been imprisoned under dubious claims. Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of the capital Caracas, was violently swept out of his office by Venezuelan Secret Police (Sebin) in February 2015 and remains in jail. Daniel Ceballos, the mayor of the western regional capital San Cristóbal, was arrested in a similar midnight raid.

Opposition lawmakers—the majority in the National Assembly for the first time in 17 years—have proposed an amnesty bill that would invalidate the prison sentences against prisoners of conscience and free those still in jail. Maduro has vowed to veto any such legislation, claiming it threatens national security.


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