Delay in Leopoldo Lopez Trial Causes Unrest in Venezuela and Abroad

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said Friday he will not tolerate any more violence from the opposition, after government buildings were vandalized on Friday in response to the postponement of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez's trial.

By Venezuelanalysis.com- TeleSUR English
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Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in to the police on February 19, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)
Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in to the police on February 19, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

This article is a combination of two news reports originally posted by TeleSUR English, with additional reporting by Cory Fischer-Hoffman for Venezuelanalysis.com. Original links below.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has said he will not tolerate any more violence from the opposition, after government buildings were vandalized on Friday in response to the postponement of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez's trial. The US State department released a statement the day before criticizing the nation's handling of the trial, which Venezuelan officials have since qualified as an “unacceptable interference in its internal affairs.”

The court hearing of Leopoldo Lopez, hardline leader of Venezuela's right-wing Popular Will party, along with four other people has been postponed until September 22, according to Lopez's personal twitter account. He is accused of several crimes, including incitation of violence and damage to property. In February of this year, the politician publicly encouraged the anti-government street action and barricade protests that led to more than 40 deaths.

Opposition groups protested on Friday in Eastern Caracas as well as Barquisimeto, Lara State, where they set the migration office on fire. 

Violent and fascist groups violently entered the office of the Administrative Service for Identification, and Migration, and Foreigners (SAIME) in the state of Lara and burnt the whole office, which caused the preventive closing of this building, and we are currently investigating the people who committed these loutish acts,” said the National Director of SAIME, Juan Carlos Dugarte.

During the assault, the groups destroyed the front of the building with stones and Molotov cocktails, causing damage to computers, desks and other equipment.

Dugarte also encouraged all citizens to reject the use violence against public institutions, recalling that it was a waste of public funds that could be invested in the creation of other institutions beneficial to the people.

President Nicolas Maduro warned on Friday that the violence from opposition sectors will not be tolerated, and that direct orders had been given to the country's security forces to prevent February's events from repeating themselves.

He also condemned the U.S. interference and declarations made against his management, which he considers to be in direct support of the anti-government street action.

The statement released last Thursday by US State Department staffer Marie Harf criticizes the Venezuelan authorities for a “lack of due process,” and “opaque justice procedures” in dealing with Lopez—among others in the opposition.

In response, Venezuelan foreign minister Rafael Ramirez, said, "Venezuela categorically rejects the interventionalist statement […], in which our democratic institutions and constitutional principles are ignored."

Lopez’s legal team have made a number of petitions to the judge assigned to the case, including a request for increased freedoms in jail, modification of the charges against him, as well as the submission of new evidence. According to Lopez’s defense lawyers, the judge in question rejected the possibility of submitting new evidence, stating that only the Court of Appeals could receive such requests. 

The start of the case was previously adjourned in early August for security reasons, when the three student political leaders on trial alongside Lopez arrived at the court without their lawyers, having previously notified relevant authorities. 

Whilst Lopez's lawyers have claimed that authorities are attempting to deny Lopez a fair trial, others, such as constitutional lawyer Jesus Silva, state that the new set of requests form part of a time wasting tactic. 

I truly believe that his legal team have read the Constitution and the criminal code of Venezuela, but this is part of an international agenda, to create some impact that Mr Lopez is a political prisoner... Mr Lopez is using this case as a political platform,” explained Silva.

Following the recent protests, the independent organization, Foro Penal declared to Spanish news agency EFE that 64 people had been detained following the protests; 47 people in Barquisimeto, and 17 in Caracas.

Last May, the president of the National Assembly, Disdado Cabello, alleged that Foro Penal, along with others, had received funds from the United States and Panama to instigate violent actions in the country. He also accused 14 people, including the director of Foro Penal, Alfredo Romero, of participating in a destabilization plan against the Venezuelan government.

In July, the vice-president of the legislative commission on external policy, Saul Ortega, also accused Foro Penal of being funded by the U.S. organizations USAID and NED, in an interview with the Venezuelan daily El Tiempo.

***

Original TeleSUR English articles:

Opposition Groups Vandalize Public Buildings in Venezuela

Venezuela Blasts US Attempt to Undermine Government

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