Venezuelan Opposition Leaders in Foreign Lobbying, Government Clashes with UN Commissioner

Several opposition figures, including former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, are currently engaged in networking and lobbying trips in the U.S. and Europe. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government has clashed with a UN human rights official over the demand to release jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

By Ewan Robertson
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Henrique Capriles (left) and Julio Borges (archive)
Henrique Capriles (left) and Julio Borges (archive)

Mérida, 23rd October 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Several opposition figures, including former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, are currently engaged in networking and lobbying trips in the U.S. and Europe. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government has clashed with a UN human rights official over the demand to release jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

From 20 – 24 October Henrique Capriles, who is the governor of Miranda state and was twice presidential candidate for the opposition, has been meeting with top politicians and influential figures in Europe and the United States.

Today Capriles was to speak at an event in New York entitled “Venezuela: The Road to Change”. Other participants include Julio Borges, an opposition parliamentarian and coordinator of Capriles’ Justice First party; and Alejandro Grisanti, head of research and strategy for Latin America at Barclay’s Bank. Entry costs US $850.

However Capriles has come under fire from the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), who accuse him of abandoning his duties in Miranda state to “meet with the international ultra-right,” out with the remit of his post.  

Miranda state legislative council, which is controlled by a PSUV majority, has made an official demand that the opposition governor explain the purpose of his foreign trip within 72 hours.

“He is the governor of Miranda state, the highest authority of this entity. He spends his time talking and complaining about all of the country’s issues but he doesn’t assume his responsibilities as governor,” said Aurora Morales, president of Miranda legislative council, to state media.

UN Human Rights Commissioner Intervenes on Lopez Case

Another opposition figure currently campaigning abroad is Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. The politician was arrested following the outbreak of deadly demonstrations in early February, and has been charged with involvement in instigating and perpetrating violent acts.

Tintori and other supporters argue that Lopez has been detained due to his political beliefs. They have been lobbying internationally for his release and that of Daniel Ceballos, an opposition mayor who was given a 12 month custodial sentence in March for failing to act against militant opposition street barricades in his municipality.

Tintori met with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, last Friday, where she discussed Lopez’s detention and what the opposition calls “political prisoners” in Venezuela. The activist also met with Spanish prime minister Manuel Rajoy yesterday.

Following his meeting with Tintori, on Monday Commissioner Ra’ad Al Hussein released a statement supporting her campaign, and backing a recent declaration by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions regarding the Lopez and Ceballos cases.

“I call on the Venezuelan authorities to act on the opinions of the Working Group and immediately release Mr. López and Mr. Ceballos, as well as all those detained for exercising their legitimate right to express themselves and protest peacefully,” Mr. Zeid said.

He added, “My office is extremely concerned about the current situation, and we will continue to monitor it very closely”.

Venezuelan authorities reject this stance, and say that those detained and not immediately released in the February – May period of opposition unrest this year are being investigated and charged for instigating and perpetrating acts of violence.

Over this period 43 people died, including security officers and supporters of both the government and opposition. It is estimated that around 900 were wounded. The opposition movement of protests and militant street barricades was launched after Leopoldo Lopez and political allies called for a strategy of “resistance” and “street action” called "The Exit."

While the opposition claimed the movement only aimed to demand a resolution to the country’s economic and political problems, the government argued that it was aimed at destabilising the country and provoking a state coup.

On Wednesday the Venezuelan foreign ministry responded to the UN High Commissioner’s declaration, questioning whether it had been “impartial, objective, non selective or effective”.

“It is surprising and unprecedented that the High Commissioner hasn’t informed himself or requested up to date information from the Venezuelan state about these cases, and that he has declared himself politically, dismissing the extensive substantive documentation given to his office,” the foreign ministry statement read.

The statement continued, “During two months in the post he [the Commissioner] has not made contact with Venezuelan authorities. It is notable, therefore, that his first public action toward Venezuela has precisely been to condemn the Venezuelan state and indulge anti-democratic sectors of the Venezuelan opposition”.

Regarding the specific cases of Lopez and Ceballos, the Venezuelan government said that these were being treated “in the framework of the state of law, for their criminal actions in detriment to the peace and stability of the Republic”.

Tintori, in reaction to the Commissioner’s statement, said, “Now that Venezuela has been elected to the Security Council, more than ever it has to follow what the U.N. says".

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