San Francisco July 16th, 2014. (venezuelanalysis.com)- Early this morning Venezuelan attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz dispatched a public attorney to Ramo Verde military prison, to check on conditions of hardline opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez’s confinement. This came in response to claims made by Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, who told reporters last week she was denied visiting rights.
“We want to denounce these acts of torture that exist against Leopoldo Lopez and our family,” Tintori said Friday in a press conference, referring to the prison’s alleged refusal to permit Lopez any visitors until July 23rd, the day of his trial.
“Not even prisoners of war are treated this way,” tweeted opposition leader Maria Corina Machado in response.
Machado and Lopez have been at the forefront of a strategy of protest and street action calling for president Nicolas Maduro’s resignation, some of which escalated violently, resulting in 43 dead and millions of dollars damage in public property since February. Lopez handed himself in to the National Guard on 18 February after he was formally accused of instigating violence.
Ortega Diaz announced this morning on live television that a total of 101 Venezuelans are currently in jail for protest-related violence. Only six of them are students, she said, while 14 are public functionaries, presumably tied to excessive use of force in dealing with protestors. An independent human rights organization, Foro Penal, has placed the total number even lower, at 86, though their investigations do not appear to include public servants.
The Lopez family appeared similarly affronted after comments made last week by Ramon Jose Medina, the adjunct secretary of opposition coalition the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). In a television interview, Medina told reporters the MUD “has no plan to get him [Lopez] out of jail, because he was the only one who invented the plan to get into jail. He turned himself in, so it’s complicated.”
In response, Lopez’s father Leopoldo Lopez Gil called upon Medina to “represent” their cause or resign. According to a MUD insider, as reported by newspaper Ultimas Noticias, Medina chose to resign and has since moved to New York. He later sent out a formal apology to the Lopez family last week for the “inappropriate declaration.”
Meanwhile Lopez Jr. sent a letter to his supporters from prison, calling on them to keep up the “non-violent protests” until the “regimen consents to real dialogue.”
International bodies such as Unsaur and the OAS, along with president Maduro, have repeatedly made calls for the opposing political parties to resume dialogue, but the MUD maintains they will not participate until certain conditions are met. These include the release of those, like Lopez, whom they consider political prisoners.
Last week Machado tweeted that she had been formally charged with instigation without a trial and was otherwise banned from international travel. Though many international news organizations, such as BBC mundo and CNN español, picked up her story, Ortega Diaz announced this morning that no such accusation was ever made.