Caracas, July 10, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Jailed right-wing opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has been granted house arrest by the Venezuelan Supreme Court on health grounds.
According to a tweet released Saturday by the court, Lopez will now be able to serve the remaining part of his thirteen year and nine month sentence from his family home in Caracas.
"By the power of Supreme Court Judge Maikel Moreno, the criminal court of the Supreme Court Justice grants house arrest to Leopoldo Lopez due to health problems,” tweeted the court.
The highly controversial leader of the ultra-right Popular Will party was arrested in early 2014 for inciting violence during protests the same year, which ultimately led to the deaths of 43 people.
Though information on the exact nature of Lopez’s health condition has not been made public, the politician was transported to his house at around 4am Saturday morning, local press reports. Lopez’s family have since released a photo showing him with his two young children.
The surprise announcement comes after Lopez's wife Lilian Tintori denied reports last month that she was negotiating house arrest for her husband with the government.
Nonetheless, Venezuelan Ombudsman Tarek William Saab made public a letter allegedly sent to him by Tintori on July 7, thanking the state official for his work and officially requesting the measure.
Tintori stated in her letter that Lopez would assume a potential transfer to house arrest “in the best way possible”.
The politician’s jail sentence was a point of debate throughout a series of unsuccessful talks held last year between the national government and opposition, facilitated by the Vatican and political figures such as former Spanish President Jose Luis Zapatero.
Reacting to news on Saturday, Zapatero welcomed the move as a “very positive step” for peace in the South American country, which has been rocked by anti-government protests and riots for more than three months. Over a hundred people have been killed as a result of the violence to date, including protesters, government supporters, and security officials.
Both Tintori and the Commission for Truth, Justice, Attention to Victims and Peace thanked Zapatero for his work following news of the humanitarian measure for Lopez.
The commission brings together victims of political violence in Venezuela as well as state officials, and reportedly played a key role in soliciting house arrest for the jailed politician, confirmed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Saturday.
“The Supreme Court, in use of its faculties, decided to accept a holistic and resounding proposal from the Commission for Truth, which submitted a report signed by me (proposing) an alternative measure for Mr Leopoldo Lopez,” explained the head of state.
The president also expressed hope that Lopez would now play a positive role in bringing an end to the unrest affecting the country.
“You know the total and resounding differences that I have with Leopoldo Lopez, I can only hope that this measure from the Commission of Truth and the Supreme Court are understood and Mr. Lopez makes public a message of rectification and peace,” he added.
But since arriving home Lopez has publicly called for more protests against the government, voicing his support for the opposition’s national day of action to blockade roads across the country for ten consecutive hours Monday.
In a message read out by Popular Will party legislator Freddy Guevara to press gathered outside Lopez’s house Sunday, the politician said that he was “firm in his opposition to the government” and would “not give up the fight”.
“If that means that I must return to a cell in Ramo Verde (military prison) then I am prepared to do it,” said Lopez.
“Tomorrow marks 100 days of struggle in the streets and that is where we will be found, alongside the people, that’s why we are calling on all the people of Venezuela to once again come out (to the streets) across the country,” he added.
Lopez's position was backed by Tintori, who had thanked government figures Delcy and Jorge Rodriguez just hours earlier for brokering the deal for her husband.
"If we have to work together to be able to understand each other and achieve an immediate solution to Venezuela's crisis, then count on me," she told press.
Tintori has become one of the most prominent faces of the opposition since her husband was arrested, and has campaigned internationally over the last three and a half years for his release.
Meanwhile Lopez’s transition to house arrest has been criticized by Chavista grassroots organizations and the Venezuelan Communist Party, who warned that it could lead to more violent attacks against leftist activists in the country.
“We will comply with this decision, although we do not agree with it,” reads a statement from the campesino organization, the Revolutionary Bolivar and Zamora Current.
“We also believe it to be important that this does not open the door to the possibility of impunity. The Chavista people, those on the ground, needs justice to exist and for it to be adhered to,” continues the statement.
The official conditions of Leopoldo Lopez’s house arrest are still unknown.