Leopoldo Lopez Ends Hunger Strike in Venezuela

Jailed far right Venezuelan opposition leader  Leopoldo Lopez ended a thirty day hunger strike today, claiming that the country’s National Electoral Council (CNE) had met one of his demands in fixing the date of parliamentary elections this December.

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Lopez has attracted extensive corporate media coverage despite lacking popular support (archives)
Lopez has attracted extensive corporate media coverage despite lacking popular support (archives)
By Lucas Koerner
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Philadelphia, June 23, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Jailed far right Venezuelan opposition leader  Leopoldo Lopez ended a thirty day hunger strike today, claiming that the country’s National Electoral Council (CNE) had met one of his demands in fixing the date of parliamentary elections this December.

“Thank you, Venezuela [for your support]. Change now has a date,” wrote Lopez on his Facebook page.

"A month ago we began this hunger strike, not to die, but that so all Venezuelans could live in dignity," he continued.

The Facebook comments bring to an end the politician's widely reported hunger strike which began on May 23 and was largely shunned as a publicity stunt in Venezuela. 

On that date Lopez,  who is currently on trial for his role in violent protests last year which resulted in the deaths of at least 43 people, released a video from Ramo Verde prison announcing that he and fellow jailed rightwing leader Daniel Ceballos would be going on “hunger strike” until the government agreed to a list of demands.

The list began with a call for the release of so-called “political prisoners”, an end to “censorship”, the presence of EU and OAS electoral observers, as well as the publication of the date for parliamentary elections.

But while jailed politician Lopez has hailed the electoral body’s announcement as a victory, the CNE regards its announcement as totally procedural, given that the exact date for elections is routinely set no more than six months prior in any given election year. 

The thirty day hunger strike, which fuelled endless reports in the international press that elections might be suspended, largely fell on deaf ears in Venezuela. Very few commentators expressed doubt that the country would be heading to the polls in December or that authorities would damage Venezuela's internationally acclaimed democratic record by failing to call a date in due course. 

The campaign also failed to generate much enthusiasm amongst an increasingly disunited political opposition, which failed to adopt a coherent and unified position with regards to Lopez's actions. 

Following a string of leaked audio recordings between Lopez and Ceballos featuring harsh criticisms of other opposition leaders, the main opposition Roundtable of Democratic Unity coalition neglected to sponsor an anti-government march convened by Lopez for May 30st, which was attended by just 3000 people and marred by embarrassing blunders.  A second opposition march this past Saturday was attended by around 400 people, according to estimates from the private press.

Lopez's charges against the government have been consistently rejected by the country's president, Nicolas Maduro, and figures such as the country's chief ombudsman, Tarek William Saab, who emphasise the difference between prisoners who are in jail due to their political beliefs and politicians facing trial for their alleged involvement in criminal actions.

In face of the allegations of “human rights abuses” and “torture” which have surrounded Lopez's case, Saab has also publicly confirmed that both Lopez and Ceballos, who ended his 20-day hunger strike on June 11, have been constantly monitored by doctors, receiving medical examinations at least twice a day.

Following the announcement that he would cease his strike, Lopez also went on to thank the Venezuelans and institutions who had been "worried" for his health. He has yet to publicly comment on the status of the other two "unfulfilled demands" which he handed down to the government as an ultimatum at the beginning of the hunger strike.