Saturday, September 5, 2015

Free Leopoldo López Mendoza Now!

"Chances are when you read this letter I will already be jailed on the orders of Nicolas Maduro; a situation that I 'm willing to take on if in something it contributes to awaken our people on the need to together make a change." - Leopoldo López Mendoza, letter to Pope Francisco February 17, 2014

Leopoldo López on February 18, 2014 addressing supporters before turning himself in
On June 29, 2015 thirty human rights organizations in a written statement to the UN Human Rights Committee gave an overview of the human rights situation in Venezuela which included the following:
"There are persistent reports of extrajudicial executions, excessive use of force, torture and other ill-treatment and arbitrary detentions. Journalists, human rights defenders and critics of the government continue to be attacked and harassed." [...] "The justice system is inefficient and continues to suffer from a lack of independence and impartiality. As a result, the vast majority of  human rights violations remain unpunished, depriving victims, who often face ongoing harassment of their right to truth and justice, and adequate reparation."
The ongoing political show trial of Leopoldo López Mendoza is a cautionary example of the radical deterioration of human rights in Venezuela and the lack of an independent judiciary to defend them. Leopoldo López has been arbitrarily detained since February 18, 2014. The Venezuelan opposition leader turned himself over to authorities after gathering tens of thousands of Venezuelans in a massive street protest where he explained the reasons why he would subject himself to this unjust process and then reaffirmed his commitment to nonviolence:
"Well brothers and sisters I ask you to continue in this fight and do not leave the street, to assume our right to protest, but to do it in peace and without violence, I ask that us, all of us that are here, all of the Venezuelans that want a change, to get informed, educated, organized, and to execute non-violent protests, the protests of masses, and the will of souls and hearts that want to change, but without hurting your neighbor."
In August of 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that the detention of Leopoldo López was arbitrary, and recommended that Venezuela immediately release him. On June 30, 2015 in an address to the United Nations Human Rights Council Lilian Tintori outlined the circumstances of his imprisonment:
My husband Leopoldo is in jail for speaking out against the human rights violations that occur in our country, the right to life is violated every 20 minutes, homicides last year were above 25,000, inflation, medicine and food scarcity is more that 72%. [...] In 2014, there were more than 3700 arbitrary detentions. I am here as a wife, as a mother that is raising her two children alone.  My husband and opposition leaders are in jail for demanding democratic change through constitutional, non-violent methods. They have not committed any crime.
Leopoldo López has spent one year, 6 months and 19 days jailed for his defense of human rights and his call for nonviolent resistance to restore Venezuelan democracy. Unfortunately the political show trial he has been subjected to threatens him with a 14 year prison term.  What is being done to Leopoldo in Venezuela is unheard of in a democracy, but common practice in Cuba. The small island nation now controls the Maduro regime in Venezuela.   Only a combination of international solidarity with internal civic nonviolent resistance will obtain Leopoldo's freedom. This is my small contribution to inform and demonstrate my solidarity. What do you plan to do?

Leopoldo López Mendoza in his prison cell in 2015

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