Venezuela Places Leopoldo López in House Arrest After Alleged ‘Torture,’ Loss of Eyesight

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez holds a Venezuelan national flag against his chest, as he greets supporters gathering outside his house in Caracas after he was released from prison on July 8, 2017
Federico PARRA/AFP

The Supreme Court of Venezuela granted opposition leader Leopoldo López house arrest – freeing him from the notorious Ramo Verde military prison – this weekend on medical grounds. Following his release, wife Lilian Tintori accused prison officials of torturing López and denying him medical care.

López is serving a nearly fourteen-year prison sentence following his conviction on “inciting violence” charges in 2015. He served little more than three years in prison in isolation at Ramo Verde.

The Supreme Court announced on Twitter Saturday that, with the permission of Chief Justice Maikel Moreno, they would “grant house arrest to Leopoldo López due to health problems.”

Officials did not specify what these health problems were, nor did they address the fact that the socialist government repeatedly denied that López had any health problems as recently as May. That month rumors circulated on Twitter that López had been transferred out of Ramo Verde and into a military hospital in serious condition. Tintori demanded to see López, holding a vigil outside of Ramo Verde and denied the right to see her husband for days. The government eventually released a bizarre video of a man claiming to be López stating that he was alive and well and that the government was treating him fairly.

Following his release, Tintori told journalists that López had recently suffered “torture” in prison. The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional notes that Tinroti said López did not eat for two days in prison before being fed an arepa, a type of corn flour bread, which gave him food poisoning. “He spent ten days with diarrhea, vomiting, and they gave him no medical attention,” she said.

Tintori also said López has lost some of his eyesight as a result of other prison torture. “The last days for Leopoldo in Ramo Verde were the worst. We denounce torture. In those days he lost 6 kilos [about 13 pounds] of weight. Leopoldo is not well in sight – he is not seeing well,” she said. “Leopoldo knew torture, evil. No political prisoner deserves cruel and inhuman treatment.”

Following his release, a crowd gathered to celebrate, which López greeted waving a Venezuelan flag.

López is the head of the Popular Will party, a Socialist International member party which opposes socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro. The Popular Will party issued a statement crediting the 99 days of protests for pressuring Maduro into allowing López to be kept under house arrest.

“99 days of peaceful, uninterrupted protests on the streets of Venezuela, along with intense pressure from the international community against the Venezuelan regime, forced the transfer of… Leopoldo López to house arrest,” the statement read.

In addition to protests by members of the Venezuelan exile community and efforts by NGOs, the Trump White House participated in pressuring the Maduro regime into letting López leave the military prison in question. In February, Tintori visited the Oval Office, meeting with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Rubio continued to pressure the Maduro regime following López’s arrest on Twitter.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley also published a note on Twitter suggesting the United States would not relent in pressuring Maduro because of López’s transfer to house arrest, given the hundreds of known prisoners of conscience still behind bars in the country.

 

 

The head of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, also joined the chorus of regional authorities demanding Maduro release all other prisoners. Almagro also issued a reminder in an interview with Univisión that López being under house arrest does not mean the government has stopped repressing him. “Neither Leopoldo López nor Venezuela are free,” he told the network. “31 million Venezuelans live as hostages to a dictatorship.”
Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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