Mérida, 10th October 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – A United Nations body has recommended that jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez be released, arguing that according to its sources, the hard-line politician’s detention on 18 February was “arbitrary”.
Meanwhile a video has been released allegedly linking another top opposition politician, Maria Corina Machado, to far-right extremist activists.
Leopoldo Lopez was arrested on February 18, one week after an opposition demonstration descended into deadly clashes and damaged property in central Caracas.
Authorities argued that militant opposition activists were responsible for the violence, while opposition figures claimed armed-pro government groups were involved. Video footage later suggested that what appeared to be rogue intelligence service officers played a role in at least one of the three deaths that day.
The demonstration took place after Lopez and other hard-line opposition leaders called for street protests against the Maduro administration as part of a strategy called “The Exit”, which authorities said was an attempt to oust the government from power. From April – May over 40 people died in clashes and on militant opposition street barricades, with fatalities including security officers, bystanders, and activists from both chavismo and the opposition.
Lopez is now standing trial for charges of public instigation, criminal association, and responsibility for property and fire damage. Lopez’s supporters and wife Lilian Tintori insist that the opposition politician is being punished for his anti-government views, and have lobbied hard internationally for his release, including to U.N. institutions. His next hearing in Venezuela is on 14 October.
Lopez, a long time opponent of the country’s Bolivarian government, is a U.S. educated economist and member of one of the most powerful families in Venezuela. From 2000 – 2008 he was mayor of a wealthy Caracas municipality, and is known for his involvement in the 2002 coup attempt against the administration of Hugo Chavez.
In the latest development of his trial, a statement dated August 26h as been released by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions recommending Lopez’s release.
The Working Group’s document states that according to the information received by the body, the opposition protests which took place in early February 2014 were part of a campaign to seek “possible institutional solutions to the country’s crisis”.
Further, according to these sources, the document states that the February 12 demonstration at which Lopez spoke occurred “in peace and without violence”. The document then says that the deaths and property damage which occurred that day, including the destruction of the front of the public prosecutor’s office, were perpetrated by “police and pro-government para-police groups”.
The document then outlines a set of legal arguments based on the version of events laid out, and displays dissatisfaction with the Venezuelan government’s response to the questions posed to it about Lopez’s detention and the charges made against him.
The Working Group concludes by arguing that, “The arrest of Mr. Leopoldo Lopez constitutes an arbitrary detention,” and recommends “the immediate release of Mr. Leopoldo Lopez and [the awarding of] comprehensive compensation”.
Lopez’s legal team welcomed the statement in a press conference yesterday, with a spokesperson declaring, “This is a U.N. pronouncement, a pronouncement that has to be respected immediately by the government and its jurisdictional authorities”.
There has not yet been official comment on the U.N. group’s statement from Venezuelan authorities.
In a response to U.S. State Department criticisms of legal proceedings around Lopez’s trial last month, Venezuelan foreign minister Rafael Ramirez said, "Venezuela categorically rejects the interventionalist statement […], in which our democratic institutions and constitutional principles are ignored."
New Video on Right-Wing Destabilization Plans
The below article is edited from an original article by TeleSUR English.
In the latest of a series of videos addressing right-wing destabilization plans in Venezuela, politician Maria Corina Machado is linked to the extremist opposition activist Lorent Saleh.
A new video published on Thursday shines further light on the violent destabilisation plans of sectors of Venezuela’s opposition.
This latest video once again shows youth extremist Lorent Saleh, who was previously caught on camera plotting violent attacks and meeting with former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, this time explaining his ties to Maria Corina Machado, a leading opposition politician
The video shows Saleh detailing his relationship with Machado's press officer, as well as him being in touch with the Machado, who allegedly requested Saleh's cooperation.
Maria Corina Machado played a key role in the opposition's efforts to oust President Chavez. Her signature appeared on the coup decree, dissolving the Venezuelan parliament and ousting President Chavez during the 2002 coup d'etat.
She was also a guest of honor at the White House in 2005 invited by then U.S. President George W. Bush.
Since President Maduro's election, Machado has continued her opposition, and is one of the leaders of #LaSalida campaign, or #TheExit.
Earlier this month, Machado received the Charles T. Mannat prize for democracy, which included a US$100,000 award. The prize is financed by the U.S. government through its agency USAID.
According to Venezuelan authorities, there are still other videos left to release, which will further detail the links between Saleh's violents plans, Machado and Leopoldo Lopez.
Machado is being investigated by the prosecutor's office for her support of Lopez and her role in February's violent protests.