Maracaibo, February 19th 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan authorities announced on Saturday that they will reopen the case against opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez in which he is accused of diversion of public resources.
Lopez, one of the founders of the center-right party Primero Justicia and current head of opposition party Voluntad Popular, is accused of having received a check for more than BsF. 60,000 (US$ 9,500) from the state oil company PDVSA in 1998 when his mother was head of public relations in the company.
Government supporters have long seen the case as an example of the type of corruption that characterized the Fourth Republic, the political system that preceded the Chavez government, in which it is often claimed that state resources tended to circulate only among the elite.
Lopez was prevented from running for public office in 2005 under an anti-corruption law due to this same accusation, and he and other leaders of Primero Justicia have admitted receiving the money, but claim it was legal.
Julio Borges, currently the head of Primero Justicia, has long maintained that the check was received by the organization in 1998 as part of a humanitarian project being carried out in Venezuelan schools and communities.
According to Borges, Primero Justicia at the time was not a political party, but rather an NGO that received money from different sources such as the World Bank and the European Union.
Government authorities, however, have maintained that the funding from PDVSA constitutes a conflict of interest, given that Lopez’s organization received the money through the department headed by his mother, which violates Venezuelan laws that prohibit these types of transactions among family members in public office.
Lopez responded to the reopening of the case as a sign of “cowardice” from the government, which he claimed is motivated by a “political agenda”.
“This is clearly an action of cowardice, but we will continue moving forward, no matter what they say, or what charges they bring,” said Lopez.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles also responded to the news by accusing the government of trying to deflect public attention.
“This is just another farce put on by the government, who are trying to hide their harsh economic measures,” he said via Twitter on Sunday.
Charges will be brought against both Leopoldo Lopez and his mother, Antonieta Mendoza de Lopez, who have been ordered to appear in court in the coming weeks.
Both are members of the famous Mendoza family, owners of the influential business conglomerate “Grupo Mendoza” that often held influential positions in many administrations of the pre-Chavez era.