Leopoldo López Defies SEBIN and Speaks Out in NYT Podcast

Leopoldo and New York Times journalist Wil Hylton arranged several interviews saying they were old classmates. They managed to do so right under SEBIN officials’ noses and the result is a two-part podcast where Leopoldo speaks his mind.

Photo: Vía País

The New York Times just dedicated an extensive profile to Leopoldo López, spanning two full episodes of The Daily podcast. Venezuelans know the story all too well, but mainstream American audiences don’t.

Still, I found both episodes very moving. Leopoldo and his family develop a relationship with Wil, the NYT journalist, as they resorted to a number of tricks to mask their conversations from hostile SEBIN; Leopoldo pretended Wil was an old college friend, they developed code words and had to constantly check on the surveillance van roaming around Leopoldo’s house.

Ratings went through the roof, getting the show on the iTunes Top Podcast Episodes list that week.

Listen to Part 1 here if you want a refresher on Leopoldo’s captivating story. For those close to the case, some of the details surrounding the arrest came out slightly inaccurate, but this doesn’t undermine the point of the episode: to highlight Leopoldo’s sheer courage in standing against authoritarianism.

Part 2 explains why Leopoldo has had to stay in silence for so long — it might have something to do with the guys with machine guns entering his house right after the podcast came out — and why he chose to publish this anyway, despite the journalist’s concerns:

WIL HYLTON: “I think it comes from this place of believing that he has a fundamental right to speak, and that if he doesn’t exercise that right and take that risk, then he’s being defeated and he’s not standing up for the principles that he thinks all Venezuelans should be out in the streets, taking the risk of protesting and standing up for. And, so, I think for him there’s a sense that he can be rebellious and defiant in the way that’s available to him. And in this case, it’s just speaking.”

LEOPOLDO LÓPEZ: “I believe that the best rebellion, the best nonviolent protest that I can make at this moment is to speak out. And I chose to do it with you and I ask you please, don’t feel bad about this. But, please tell your people not to leave me astray. Please. That’s the only thing I ask for you and your people, don’t forget about us.”

Leopoldo is down to his last natural right: to speak his mind, even if that means putting his life in danger. He speaks bravely, and his courage should inspire us all to also do whatever we can, whatever is left.

Listen to it. It’s really powerful stuff.