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.

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  1. Can’t wait to see the fur fly after this one.

    Any bets on who Maduro will fire this time? I wonder what its like to live in a world of scapegoats?

  2. Here’s a personality cult in the making, as if the country already infatuated with Bolívar needs yet another one. Why don’t we try to look at López more objectively? Let’s talk results, shall we?

    • Under his administration, the municipio of Chacao was very well run. By all accounts I have heard, he ran an honest and efficient organization.

    • He’s a tireless campaigner and he’s put himself at great risk and made enormous sacrifices for his country. I don’t know what “Let’s talk results” means. He’s a dissident and a political prisoner, not a sales manager for Walmart.

      • “Let’s talk results” means what it means. There’s merit in López’s record – but there are flaws as well – as with everyone of us, otherwise we’d not be where we are. The time for personality cults should be left in the past; if anything, there sure are no grounds to start one now.

        “Leave out the adjectives and you’ll get to the truth.” The post is framed for us to be touched by López’s story, instead of being mobilized – or deterred – by what he and Voluntad Popular propose. What’s the point?

        Critical thought is what we need right now, not emotional praise. That’s my view.

    • I do understand what Yuruan says. Leopoldo has made sacrifices, he is a dissident and political prisoner. He did a good job in Chacao, but how does that compare to other Chacao Alcaldes. I probably like him better than any of the othere choices out there. But I guess that in order to feel more comfortable picking him as leader of the country what I’d like to see is more on what he proposes to do to get Venezuela out of this hell. I guess I’m just skeptycaal of all politicians.

      • He’s not “all politicians”. He’s a political prisoner. He is prevented from running for office based on coercion and the illegitimate use of the legal system to suppress his legitimate political activity and expression of his views. Those facts overwhelm concerns about his policy positions, IMHO.

        You don’t have to agree with LL’s policy positions or perceived lack thereof, you don’t have to like his wife, you don’t have to do a cross comparison of mayors of Chacao, to properly support this man fully until he is free and has an equal opportunity to test his political skills freely against anyone else.

        I think Voltaire said it more concisely: that you can disagree with everything this man says, but defend to the death his right to say it. Or jesus, don’t even defend him to the death- at least don’t quibble with his administrative skills, wife, policy views or whatever, while he is being tortured and held hostage by an evil, authoritarian regime that has every interest in delegitimizing him.

        The things I have heard people say about Leopoldo Lopez with not a shred of evidence to support, and the petty observations I hear people make about him and others in his position, lead me to believe that some of the Maduro regime’s best weapons are people who make perfection in their little minds the enemy of the good – people who put their partisan little fights before the fundamental concern. What is the fundamental concern? The fundamental concern is that Venezuela is ruled by a dictatorship that has no respect for the rule of law or “politics” in any normal sense, and that Leopoldo Lopez is being abused by this regime for doing what is his fundamental right to do: be a politician, and express his views.

        Unless your “skepticism” has led you to conclude that all politicians are bad, and all politics illegitimate, in which case, your cynicism joins cause with people like Maduro who have given up politics and democracy in favour of force.

        • I guess I didn’t exprees myself correctly. I do agree with you that he’s a political prisoner and shouldn’t be in jail, that he has the right to be free and express his views. I guess I was jumping a step ahead where he’s already free and running for president with all his rights restored.

  3. Leopoldo is by FAR the most qualified person to be President. Harvard educated, he ain’t no Capriles. He’s probably honest, which is extremely rare among MUD politicians.

    To me, the problem with him since he was incarcerated is his lovely wife, Lilian. She obviously means well, but she speaks too much and joined the wrong MUD crowd. Frente Libertad Crap. Going to elections Crap. I was disappointed by Leopoldo since then. He should have stayed close to Maria Corina, on a hard-core line. He should have instructed Lilian to speak his words, and join MCM.

    In the second part of this audio interview he doesn’t say shit about the current situation and his position. Zip. Should people vote? Nada. Should people hit the streets after the Fraud? Zilch. Should the international community extend economic sanctions, should the USA shut down the oil cash? Zero. Ok, he’s probably being cautious, and faces reprimands, even going back to La Tumba. So that bails him out for these shallow interviews. But it doesn’t bail him out for not instructing his wife on what to say, and especially, what not to say on his behalf.

    Maria Corina deserves to be President one day, with him as Vice-President.

    • Lilian before she married Leopoldo was one of the worst broadcasters i ever heard on radio, my opinion on him fell after i saw he married her.

    • “Leopoldo is by FAR the most qualified person to be President” “Maria Corina deserves to be President one day, with him as Vice-President.”

      You started out with a very good and true observation, you finished with a wrong conclusion. MCM at best could be HIS vp!!!

      • LL has an excellent education, plus real political experience. But MCM has proven she’d a tough Capitalist, right wing, no BS, no MUD crap. My kinda lady.

  4. Joining the wrong MUD crowd and marrying a bad tv journalist don’t seem like compelling arguments against Leopoldo about whom all I have learned about him on CC is that he has been unlawfully imprisoned. Are his policies materiality different from the Chavistas and does he believe in basic political rights? Anyone know or even care…

    • He does believe in basic political rights, big time.

      His policies are what could be defined as slightly left of center. He is a Harvard graduate, studied Public Policy and ran his mayoralty efficiently and fairly.

      Personally, I’d rather see Maria Corina Machado as president since she is definitely right of center. But I think in a contest between the two Lopez would win handily.

      • I said that two years ago, and I’ve mentioned Jose Guerra at least twice. Everyone ignores me, so I’ll ignore YOU! (Joke.)

        Part of the problem – a big part – is that Venezuela apparently does not understand free market capitalism. Maybe it is all of LatAm, I don’t know. But talk free market capitalism and you get the Venezuelan back turned towards you. I do not know what the “spirit of the land” is in that regard, but I have seen it up here from Americans who think that “The Government” owes them a living and more importantly, that they can make The Government give them that by voting in people who will tax the few to give to many.

        That train of thought is not deep enough to go beyond personal feelings, to realize that someone else must have something rightfully theirs forcibly taken from them by The Government, in order for others to be “given” it. That is robbery. Corruption is robbery. Corruption is a big problem in LatAm. Now we have it in California.

        Nowhere in our Bill of Rights does it say that anyone has the “right” to receive “free” stuff from the government.

        Amendment Nine isn’t often talked about, but bears reading carefully, perhaps especially in the context of Abraham Lincoln’s famous phrase about “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” To take from one man “by consensus of the majority”, to give to another, impairs the first man’s rights, and only condemns the second man to a debt he does not know how to repay. Charity, by contrast, is a religious grace, and donations are given willingly. Why anyone would have difficulty seeing that is a mystery to me.

      • One of the main reasons Carlos Andres Pérez 2 was impeached, in a hell of a witch hunt, was his decision to listen to his economic advisers ( some of whom read this blog, methinks) to turn towards a more market based economic model.

        Problem was, in the main the rest of political Venezuela saw their “banana patches” threatened under this new way of doing business. Privatization of some state enterprises, de-centralizing government and so on would shift too much power and influence (plus the concomitant graft that is always present) away from the usual suspects.

        It was telling how CAP not only was green lighted by his own party for defenestration, but the swiftness with which he was booted.In the end he was impeached for “mis handling” 200k protecting Nicaragua’s recently elected Violeta Chamorro. Misappropriation I believe it’s called in English.

        No doubt that all along Venezuelan politicians trained voters in the art of what’s in it for me, etc. Government will always be there for you because we’re rich, just keep voting for me.

        Chávez turned that up to 11, only making things worse. Getting Venezuelans to think different is going to make Heroin withdrawal look like a walk in the park

  5. My two cents:

    1. Contrary to the rumours, he does not sound like his mental sanity nor his will have been destroyed. That is a good thing. At the same time, I am not hearing much in the way of passion from him either.

    2. He doesn’t seem to have anything of real substance to say.

    • I feel the same way. He sounds like beaten man, but how can he not?

      He was out there protesting against Chavez from Day One, when Stupigo took control of the municipal police to politicize them. And he’s been out there fighting the fight every day since then, and then his incarceration and house arrest.

      I think he sounds more and more like a beaten man, unlike Mandela who suffered far worse, because he no longer believes his fellow Venezuelans are worth saving.

      Hard to swallow, but I believe this is the core of modern day Leopoldo, not to mention his recent writings of oil wealth distribution as a solution, which is basically Chavismo Lite.

  6. It’s fantastic that Leo Lopez is speaking publicly again. What an admirable and brave family they are to take such personal risks ….and sacrifice in the hope to rebuild a broken nation . Internment has certainly taught him patience , I hope he has a good plan . Certainly this is not the time to show your cards. The man went on hunger strike for Venezuela. Salute him.

  7. I certainly bear no ill will against Leopoldo López and very much agree that his imprisonment, like that of many others, is an act of gross injustice by the government of Maduro. But I found Hylton’s New York Times ‘The Daily’ podcast on Leopoldo López a laughably distorted account of López’s emergence in politics and offering a highly slanted story of the significant events of the last two decades. This is troubling because NYT’s Leopoldo-articles are clearly political interventions of some sort. My politics, and your politics, whatever they are, should not be built on simplifications and misrepresentations.

  8. This came out weeks ago, I thought you guys missed it.

    Overall I found the profile extremely trite and like others mentioned almost cultish. As bad as I feel for them, I rolled my eyes so hard during both part one and part two.


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