It was a Tuesday in Caracas with the sun showing brightly down Leopoldo Lopez stood next to a statue of Jose Marti addressing a multitude of Venezuelans calling on them to nonviolently resist the dictatorship in Venezuela. At the same time this courageous man announced that although knowing that he did not expect justice from the legal system controlled by the Maduro regime that he would turn himself in to demonstrate the dictatorial nature of that regime.
Tens of thousands gathered to support Leopoldo Lopez and many shouted that he not turn himself in and would have defended him with violence, but the opposition leader counseled self-restraint, discipline, nonviolence and before he turned himself in to regime security forces addressed his supporters:
"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. " [...] "I am now about to proceed to go towards the squad where the National Guard is to turn myself in. (One of the reporters yells: " COME ON MAN DON'T TURN YOURSELF IN") I am going to do it. I thought about it a lot. I'd like to let you know that these past few days, I had a lot of time to think, analyze, listen to the radio, watch TV or read what I haven’t for a while, speak with my family, and the option I had was to leave the country, but I will never leave, never. The other option, was to stay hidden in secrecy, but that choice could leave doubts among some, including some who are here now that we have something to hide. We have nothing to hide, I have not committed any crimes, I am not a criminal, I do not have to hide, then the other option is to turn my self in, and I ask you, and beg you with my heart, that when I pass by and turn myself in, that you keep calm, we have no other option. I do not want any more violence or confrontation, so I ask for your understanding, for your organization and your discipline."One year 6 months 24 days after his arrest and all that time spent behind bars Leopoldo Lopez was subjected to a political show trial and sentenced to 13 years and 9 months in prison on September 10, 2015 in what can only be described as a mockery of justice. On August 18, 2016
the appeal was rejected by the regime controlled court. and the imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader went on to make a number of observations regarding his case:
Only in a dictatorship can it be considered a crime being committed to achieve the best Venezuela. It has always been clear to me that there will be no judge or any court of this dictatorship that will grant me freedom. With our case the unjust justice has been laid bare in front of Venezuelans and the world ... Ironic. One of the judges today executioner, Jimai Montiel, was that boy who sang to Pope John Paul II in 1985. Brothers, Venezuelans, I ask that we turn all our indignation into action and mobilization! They can't break our fighting spirit! They can't force Venezuelans to submit! Let us go forth to conquer change and democracy. At this time, the solidarity that I ask is with our beloved Venezuela!
|Being taken to hearing where he is appeal was rejected|
The Indian nonviolent independence leader Mohandas Gandhi wrote that "Nonviolence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for non-co-operation with evil." This is what Leopoldo Lopez did on February 18, 2017 in Venezuela and has continued to do so for the past three years behind bars.
On the eve of marking three years unjustly imprisoned Leopoldo Lopez was able to get a message out over twitter calling on his fellow Venezuelans to continue non-violently resisting the dictatorship in Venezuela:
Tomorrow 18F, we return to the streets, without violence, but firm. Worker, student, housewife, businessman all together! Let us begin a new stage of democratic resistance. Restoring freedom and democracy depends on our commitment. Brothers and sisters, I invite you to resist, to fight and to conquer our rights, our freedom and our progress. Strength Venezuela, Strength and Faith.1,579,680 minutes have ticked by for Leopoldo Lopez over the past three years imprisoned and separated from his family but with his continuing nonviolent defiance and call to action these past three years are an ongoing full victory that has exposed the dictatorial nature of the Maduro regime and inspired friends of freedom everywhere.
|Cuban dissidents march for Leopoldo Lopez's freedom in Cuba in 2014|
|Protests for Leopoldo and a free Venezuela today|
Today let us raise our voices and demand freedom for Leopoldo Lopez and for Venezuela.