Alone in a crowd

Leopoldo 3I continue to be entertained by Boris Muñoz’s candid interview with political prisoner Leopoldo López. Here are a few takeaways of what Leopoldo says in the second part:

  1. The only evidence the government has against me is my speeches. What more proof that this is a dictatorship?
  2. The military controls who goes in and who comes out of the court room. (Note: this is outrageous; López is a civilian being tried in a civilian court)
  3. They prevent people from entering the proceedings, even though there are many empty seats.
  4. I have been allowed no witnesses for my defense; some of the government’s witnesses are members of the ruling party.
  5. The government barred me from running for office, but the measure expires in 2014. That is why they put me in jail.
  6. I’m taking it day by day. One of the things I’ve read is the memoirs of Cardinal Van Thuan, who went to jail in Vietnam. I am using this to prepare myself physically, spiritually, and mentally for the long haul. (Note: Van Thuan is one of my favorites, an inspiration; it’s the first time I hear a politician talk about him. Good for Leopoldo for feeding his soul with good things, and for at least saying what he reads, unlike others)
  7. He mentions the “Hospedales Report,” unknown by me, which was presented to the MUD in January and apparently vouches for the #LaSalida method. (Note: anybody know what he’s referring to?)
  8. We’ve been talking about the Constitutional Assembly as a way of fighting the dictatorship since October.
  9. Capriles was convinced the government had stolen the election, but he did not support the idea for people to go out into the streets. He told me, “if you think street protests are the way to go, you lead them.”
  10. I tried to coinvince the rest of the parties, but they wanted to wait.
  11. Waiting for the economy to deteriorate political support for the government is not feasible. Look at Cuba – economic deterioration there has not loosened the government’s grip on power.
  12. In the election of April of 2013, we were more ready than we had ever been. We had witnesses in many places where we hadn’t had them before. In October of 2012, we knew we had lost, there was nothing to do, in spite of all the tricks that Chávez used.
  13. I asked Capriles on the night of April 14th to call his supporters to the streets to defend his victory that night. He said no.
  14. Capriles asked Ramón José Medina to audit the election results. (Note: Ramón José Medina is an infamous political operator, famous in part for being the lawyer of the bolibourgoisie, and for … this disgraceful interview)
  15. I disagreed with Capriles’ suspension of street protests following the April election.
  16. Maduro is a moral midget, he is no De Klerk.
  17. The reasons for sitting down and talking to the government while students were being attacked belong to the individuals who went there. They owe the people some answers.
  18. 60% of Venezuelans do not believe we live in a democracy.
  19. The process of change inside the opposition began after the April 2013 elections, and after the municipal elections later that year. It didn’t begin with #LaSalida. (Note: Curiously, those two benchmarks are two of Henrique Capriles’ most painful defeats – the moment when his victory was “stolen,” and the moment when the opposition, except for Leopoldo, did poorly on what Capriles termed a “referendum” on Maduro. Leopoldo seems to hint that Capriles is through, as a consequence of the events of 2013)
  20. Hugo Chávez did very well when he was imprisoned in Yare. He had tons of visitors, and he was interviewed several times. I have had none of that.
  21. I have a map of Venezuela in my cell that I am studying it carefully. I am also learning to draw. (Good grief, more prisoners who think they are artists!)
  22. The constitutional assembly is needed because the entire system needs to be changed. Large numbers of Venezuelans would be willing to sign to call for a Constitutional Assembly.
  23. Venezuela needs to become the world’s largest exporter of crude.

It’s amazing that the tone Leopoldo strikes from his prison cell in Ramo Verde is much more positive and optimistic than the tone struck by some of the politicians who are out and about. However, one troubling aspect of Leopoldo’s political career comes through in this interview.

Much of what he has to say has to do with his inability to convince important political allies. His narration of recent events is littered with failed attempts to convince others of his points of view. Whether it’s calling people out into the streets after the April elections, convincing folks that the Constitutional Assembly is the way to go, or the wisdom of #LaSalida, it just seems like, barring a few exceptions, there is deep chasm between himself and the rest of the MUD.

This was on display this week. The MUD announced it was offering its position of Secretary General to activist Chúo Torrealba (more on that later), and it was leaked that Voluntad Popular, Leopoldo’s party, was the only one voting against the motion.

I don’t really know why this is. Maybe it’s a clash of personalities. Perhaps it is a product of leftover resentments from Leopoldo’s splits with multiple parties inside the opposition. Who knows to what extent political jealousy plays into this. Regardless, it baffling to me that such a charismatic, smart, obviously talented politician … has so much trouble making friends with those on our side.

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