Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Venezuelan prisoner of conscience Leopoldo López starts hunger strike

"We respect any person who goes on a hunger strike. That method of struggle is not ours. We're women who are never going to do it, and although we disapprove of it, we're going to give them all the moral and spiritual support we can." - Berta Soler, Leader of the Ladies in White Movement 

Leopoldo López Mendoza has announced both in a letter and in a video that he started a hunger strike on May 24, 2015 at 12 noon. The video in addition states that Daniel Ceballos is joining him on the hunger strike and calls on Venezuelans to take part in a vast and nonviolent demonstration on Saturday. Below is a translation of the letter. The original Spanish is reproduced at the end of this blog post.
To the People of Venezuela,
I have taken the decision to initiate a hunger strike as a peaceful and nonviolent protest before the lack of responses on the part of the regime to the profound crisis that we, all Venezuelans, are suffering and in particular for the already prolonged situation of those of us who are political prisoners. After two days of fasting, yesterday Sunday May 24th at 12 noon I formally initiated the hunger strike with the following petitions:
1. Freedom of Political Prisoners
2. End of the persecution and censorship
3. Publishing of the Date for elections to be announced and that the observance by the OAS and the EU be permitted.
To all Venezuelans I thank you from my heart for all of the support and ask you not to leave us alone that we will never abandon the struggle for a better Venezuela.
Your Brother,
Leopoldo Lopez
Political Prisoner, Prison of Ramo Verde
People of good will, myself included, are concerned when anyone announces a hunger strike understanding the gravity and danger of such an undertaking. In the case of Venezuela even more so when one recalls the case of Franklin Brito, who died on hunger strike on August 30, 2010.
Nonviolence expert, Michael Nagler in an Introduction to Nonviolence filmed at the University of California at Berkeley in the fall of 2006 offered the following analysis on hunger strikes within a nonviolent context in the video above starting at 46 minutes and 38 seconds stating:

"This is not a case of suicide. You are not killing yourself. You are risking death. What you are doing is putting your life into the hands of another person." ... "You are not killing yourself but you are saying to the person that your behavior is so unacceptable that if you continue it its going to kill me. It is an extreme case of taking on the suffering that is in a situation." ...This is different from a threat because what you are saying to the person is "I am going to exhibit to you mirror back to you the ultimate consequences of what you are doing." ... "This is an act of truth. You are killing us - you are killing our people and I'm going to show you that you are doing it to awaken your conscience."...Thats why you have to be carrying on a conversation on a nonverbal level.

There are several questions that any individual contemplating the extreme action of going on hunger strike should contemplate. First, are there any other out of the over 198 nonviolent actions that can be taken that should be tried before resorting to this life risking action? Secondly, who are you trying to persuade into changing their behavior?  Do they care whether you live or die? Third, is this a life or death situation that requires placing your life on the line? Finally, can you succeed in achieving your objective.

Meanwhile let us make sure that the world knows of the plight of Leopoldo Lopez and the many other political prisoners in Venezuela and their struggle for freedom and justice. 

Letter by Leopoldo Lopez announcing his hunger strike on May 24, 2015

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