Mérida, 13th October 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has responded to the statement released by a United Nations working group recommending the release of jailed opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez.
Last week the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions released a document in which it made the judgment. Based on the Working Group’s reading of the events leading to Lopez’s detention on 18 February and his ongoing trial, the organisation argued that “the arrest of Mr. Leopoldo Lopez constitutes an arbitrary detention”.
Lopez (43) is a long time government opponent and member of one of the country’s most influential families. He was arrested a week after he led a large opposition demonstration in central Caracas on 12 February which ended in three deaths and the destruction of the front of the Attorney General’s office. What appeared to be rogue intelligence officers were also present, and were caught on video shooting at protesters.
The demonstration was part of a strategy of opposition street demonstrations and barricades called “The Exit” which the administration of President Nicolas Maduro argued was an attempt to force it from office. Over three months 43 were killed and hundreds wounded, with fatalities including security officers, civilian bystanders and activists from both the opposition and chavismo.
Lopez is now standing trial for public instigation, criminal association, property damage and fire starting. He and his supporters deny all charges and blame the 12 February violence on security forces and allegedly armed pro-government groups. Lopez’s wife and political supporters have lobbied internationally for his release.
On Friday, Venezuelan foreign minister Rafael Ramirez responded to the statement from the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions. “As we told the [U.S.] State Department not to interfere in our affairs, so we say to any working group of any institution,” the minister said in a press conference.
Ramirez added that Lopez’s trial “is taking place in the framework of our laws…in which we can’t interfere”.
Ana Elisa Osorio, a deputy for the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in the Latin American parliament, further argued that the Working Group statement is only an opinion, and Venezuela is under no obligation to follow the recommendation.
The Working Group has since released another statement, this time recommending the release of former opposition mayor Daniel Ceballos based on the argument that he did not receive a fair trial.
Ceballos and one other opposition mayor were jailed for 12 and 10 ½ months respectively in March for refusing to observe a Supreme Court order to dismantle opposition street barricades in their municipalities.