Leopoldo in depth

This Foreign Policy piece by Roberto Lovato has gotten a bit of pushback because of its less-than-rosy account of the public persona of Leopoldo López. And, in particular, for its cryptochavista fixation with the events of April, 2002.

Putting that aside, though, it’s an accomplished, in-depth look at López’s life and career – where he grew up, who his mentors were, what his allies think of him, and what his history is/was during Venezuela’s tumultous recent periods.

In trying to convey why so many chavistas loathe Leopoldo, it falls a bit into propaganda, but ultimately, one man’s propaganda is another man’s reason for sticking with the government that is impoverishing him. All points of view are present.

I think the piece deserves a close read. While certainly sympathetic to left-wing views, it is not a hack job, and it is not deceptive. The sirloin, for me, is the issue of how the Carmona coup is something the opposition simply doesn’t talk about, hinting about how that makes them come across as less than sincere:

“The attempted coup remains very unpopular in Venezuela, in no small part because of Carmona’s decision to throw out the constitution, a document that just three years earlier had been approved by an overwhelming majority of Venezuelans, including many opposition sympathizers. A September 2003 poll by Datanálisis, one of Venezuela’s most prominent polling firms, found that more than 90 percent of respondents preferred that the country’s political crisis be resolved by legal, democratic, and peaceful means. The unpopularity of the coup was further confirmed by Chávez’s resounding victory in a 2004 recall election. And those two days in 2002 remain a “delicate” subject among the opposition, according to Datanálisis’s president, Luis Vicente León. “They did something they’ve tried to forget,” he said, “and they want to keep it that way.”

López and his allies on the radical flank of the opposition have long tried to distance themselves from its memory. Over the years, López has emphasized that he did not sign Carmona’s decree — no evidence indicates that he did — and that he had no role in organizing the coup attempt. “At no point was López ever a proponent of the coup, nor was he allied with the business leaders who led it,” the white paper by his attorneys reads. The paper was released on July 21, 2014, at a National Press Club press conference that featured an emotional appeal by Tintori for “solidarity” and for her husband’s release from jail. “It breaks my heart,” she told the gathering of journalists and supporters, “having to explain to my daughter after every visit why her daddy can’t come home.”

But news reports, parliamentary records, U.S. government documents, video recordings, and interviews show that López was not quite as remote from the coup attempt and its plotters as he and his representatives claim. Coup leaders and Carmona signatories included figures who were at the time, or are now, members of López’s inner circle. Harvard-educated Leopoldo Martínez, for several years an opposition leader in parliament, led Primero Justicia with López; he was designated finance minister of the short-lived Carmona government. Maria Corina Machado, López’s closest ally, who joined him in calling for last February’s protests, was a signatory; as was Manuel Rosales, a former leader of Un Nuevo Tiempo, a party that López joined and helped build in 2007 (and was expelled from in 2009). Also among the roughly 400 business, military, media, and political figures to sign the decree during a raucous ceremony in April 2002 at Miraflores — while Chávez was being held, not far away, at a military installation — was Leopoldo López Gil, López’s father.”

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