The New Mandela Of Venezuela

By VERONICA HAGGAR
Staff Writer

The opposition leader, Leopoldo López, has been behind the bars for over a year now since February 18, 2014 when he voluntarily turned himself in to the National Guard in front of thousands of supporters all wearing white symbolizing peace.

“I don’t believe in the justice that we have in Venezuela. I asked him not to do it,” said Lilian Tintori, López’s wife, during a visit to Cambridge. “He said to me that if he didn’t do it, he would be a prisoner of his own soul.”

Tintori visited Cambridge last year to receive an award in the name of her husband who was in jail for three months at the time. López became the first person to receive the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Achievement Award in absence. The award is given to alumni who have been recognized for improving significantly the human condition.
On a phone interview held on February 8 with Fernando del Rincón for CNN in Spanish, the first direct contact he has had with the media ever since, López declared that he still stands against corruption and he will not give up his fight.

“I’m imprisoned in a jail but Venezuelans are imprisoned in a country that is no longer viable. They are imprisoned in the lines [to the markets], imprisoned in the difficult
health situation, imprisoned in what means not being able to go out in the street, not only by night but at any time of the day,” said López during the phone interview. “Being jailed certainly is difficult but we have to have the conviction that we can break free, and just like I’m sure that my incarceration is transitory, I’m sure that the incarceration in which all of
us, Venezuelans, are submitted today is also transitory.”

López was calm during the interview and he confessed that he has never feel hatred and in fact starts off his day by praying.

“In this moment Venezuela is going through hard times and requires all of us to have serenity, serenity of thoughts, serenity to confront the next actions with determination
but above all with the conviction to step steady toward the construction of a better Venezuela where a simple idea could deprive, simple but very powerful,” confirmed
López. “It’s the idea for which I am willing to give my life up for: the possibility that all the
rights would be [given] for all the Venezuelans without distinction,” continued López
referring to the inequality of rights from the government. “If I was convinced about this
a year ago, today I’m even more [convinced] because I’ve seen how the weakest pillar that Venezuela has today is the pillar of justice.”

When asked if he had a message for the government, López said without a doubt that the best thing that President Maduro could do for Venezuela was to resign and give the opportunity to the Venezuelans to choose a new assembly and a new president.

“It’s time for the people, time for democracy, to practice democracy, it’s the time for the constitution, it’s time for the Venezuelans to be the one to set the tone, the majority of the Venezuelans,” said López stirring the people to take action. “I would say to the Venezuelans that we can think differently. To the ones who have thought different
than us, to respect each other in that fundamental idea: which is that the people decide.”

It has been confirmed by Venezuelan politician and activist Carlos Vecchio that Irwin Cotler, Nelson Mandela’s lawyer, will join the counsel to defend the opposition leader
who feels honored to have him as part of his legal team.

“I am sure that I’m going to be free sooner or later, time for me is not a factor
that worries me in the sense that it is a variable that I can’t master,” said López confidently.
“I have resigned myself to understand that I donot dominate that variable of when I’m going to be freed but I know that I will be freed and based on this I have dedicated to strengthen myself every day, strengthen myself spiritually, strengthen myself intellectually- I’ve read a lot.”

While López was on the phone the guards tried to sabotage the call.

“Here they are already hitting the phone,” said López as noise can be heard in the
background from people talking to him. “No coronel, what is going on brother?

What’s up? No you can’t, you can’t, you can’t take my call. You can’t take my call,” said
López trying to prevent the guards and the coronel from ending the call. “If you want
to punish me then punish me but you can’t take my call.”

After the incident López kept on talking calmly to finish his thought and then
added, “They are forcing me to end the call, they want to rip off the phone from me but
I’m not going to let it happen.”

Del Rincón tried to rush with the conversation to give López time to say everything
he wanted to say. Even though López sounded calm, he was also upset for the abuse of his rights.

“I made the decision to accept this call, aware that there were going to be consequences
and I’m willing to assume the consequences Fernando, because we can’t incarcerate what is our rights and it’s a right I have to be able to talk,” stated López about the unfair treatment towards him in jail. “It’s a right that I have just like all the prisoners to be able to get visits, I can’t have visits.”

The interview ended when a noise, as if someone was ripping away the phone from López, was heard then his voice in the background screaming at them to stop when the called failed.

Del Rincón contacted the family, friends, defendants and contacts from inside of the jail to get information about what happened when the call ended and allegedly the phone he was using in the jail was a public phone attached to the wall and the noise heard was when the guards ripped the phone off the wall.

After the interview, the following days, López was subjected to isolation and punished,
while his jail cell was being inspected and his possessions like photographs of his children were being destroyed.

The brave leader has been an inspiration to many and his life is now in the process of becoming a documentary film by a foundation aiming against the abuse of human rights. Sources like El Universal, mention many artists supporting the project and participating on it like the beloved Leonardo Di Caprio.

Veronica Haggar

Veronica Haggar is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism, with a minor in advertising. Haggar is passionate about writing and aspires to be a successful entertainment journalist in the future. She dreams of working as a staff writer and later as an editor-in-chief for a prestigious magazine, such as Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Alternative Press or as a television reporter for E! News or MTV.

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