Tribute to Leopoldo Lopez

During his eight-year tenure as mayor of one of the five municipalities of Caracas, Leopoldo Lopez won first-prize awards from Transparency International for running Venezuela’s most honest and efficient municipal administration. The year after he left office, Leopoldo founded the political party Voluntad Popular, or “Popular Will,” a pluralist and democratic movement committed to the realization of “the social, economic, political, and human rights of every Venezuelan.”

On February 18, 2014, facing preposterous charges of “instigating arson, damage, and criminal gatherings,” Leopoldo turned himself in to unmask the autocratic Maduro regime and to awaken Venezuelans to the 15 disastrous years under the rule of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have characterized the criminal case against Leopoldo as an attempt by Maduro to silence a political opponent.

Locked up in the notorious military prison Ramo Verde, Leopoldo has been denied visits by his family and has faced both physical and psychological torture. He has spent half his term in solitary confinement.

But locking up Leopoldo Lopez and subjecting him to the most horrific prison conditions has been a serious miscalculation for the regime, since it has given rise to an international campaign spearheaded by his wife Lilian Tintori. Before her husband turned himself in, they were offered a chance to live in exile, but that has never been an option for two fighters for the freedom of their people.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the European Parliament, among other international bodies, have all called for Leopoldo’s release. The Working Group describes Leopoldo as the victim of an “arbitrary detention”.

For his unflinching commitment to the future of a Venezuela that is free of corruption, arbitrary rule, and a flagrant disregard for fundamental human rights, the National Endowment for Democracy is proud to present its 2015 Democracy Award to political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez, and to recognize the tireless work of Lilian Tintori to call the world’s attention to his case.