Caracas, June 6, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez released a controversial video calling for more anti-government street protests Saturday, after meeting with former Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero earlier in the day.
In a pre-recorded message made public on Twitter, Lopez told opposition supporters to maintain the state of civil unrest gripping the country since April 4th – in spite of a mounting death count that currently stands at 73.
“My invitation to Venezuela is that you stay in the streets, with firmness and determination… This is a struggle that cannot end until we are victorious,” Lopez tells the camera.
“Protest needs to be in all places, in all parts, and all of the time,” he continued.
The leader of the hard-right Popular Will party – who was sentenced to more than 13 years in 2015 for leading anti-government protests in which 43 people were killed – said that “resistance, rebellion and protests” against Venezuela’s leftist government were legitimate. He described the protesters as on the “right side of history” and accused the Maduro administration of being “despotic” and unable to respond to the material needs of the people.
The video was released less than a week after the judge who upheld Lopez’s sentence in the face of an appeal was gunned down in Caracas at a street blockade mounted by alleged opposition supporters.
In a direct message to anti-government protesters, the jailed politician expressed his “recognition and admiration” for the groups of young people “taking to the street with their shields, those that help with their knowledge of medicine, and those defending the peaceful marches”.
The reason for the meeting between Zapatero and Lopez is still unknown, though the former Spanish president played a key role in facilitating the ultimately unsuccessful Vatican-mediated talks between the government and opposition last year. On Twitter, Lopez confirmed that the two had had a “respectful conversation” on Saturday but gave no further details.
Following the meeting, opposition supporters took to Twitter to speculate that the jailed politician had refused an offer of house arrest made by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodriguez, who accompanied Zapatero’s visit. Nonetheless, no official sources have confirmed this version of events.
Since the protests began at least 11 people have died due to excessive use of force by security officials, while 21 have died due to the actions of the protesters – according to information compiled by Venezuelanalysis.
The opposition has confirmed that it aims to force the current elected government from power through permanent street protest. It has ruled out the possibility of further dialogue with the government.