Victims of the Guarimbas march in Caracas. (Zurimar Campos/AVN)
By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas
Venezuela’s Committee of Victims of the Guarimba petitioned the Attorney General’s office to pursue new charges against right-wing politician Leopoldo Lopez on Saturday, marking the third anniversary of his arrest.
In September 2015, Lopez was sentenced to 13 years and nine months jail time for having promoted violent anti-government protests known as the guarimbas the previous year, leading to the death of 43 people. He was originally taken into custody by Venezuelan authorities on February 18t, 2014.
Accompanied by pro-government supporters, members of the victims’ committee marked the anniversary with a march through Caracas to the Public Prosecution’s office, where they handed in an official statement expressing their support for re-opening Lopez’s case.
“In our criteria, the sentence determined for Lopez by the penal process led by the Attorney General’s office does not correspond to the truth of the actions carried out by Leopoldo Lopez against the constitutional order of our country,” reads the document.
Although Lopez was officially convicted of “publicly inciting violence,” relatives of those who died or were injured during the guarimbas are now demanding that the politician assume direct liability for the deaths or injury of their family members.
“[The Attorney General’s office should] procede immediately to charge Leopoldo Lopez for his responsibility in the deaths and injuries caused between the months of February and June 2014,” continues the statement.
The committee also went on to publicly reject recent declarations of support for Lopez’s release from new US President Donald Trump during a meeting with Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, last Wednesday.
Committee spokespeople accused the US president of attempting to “illegally interfere” in the Venezuelan justice system.
For its part the US State Department also released a statement to mark the date, calling for the “immediate release of all prisoners of conscience,” including Lopez, and “the restoration of a democratic process that reflects the will of the Venezuelan people”.
Following last week’s widely publicized meeting with the US President, Tintori also called on Venezuelans to take to the streets to commemorate the third anniversary of her husband’s incarceration and to protest the “dictatorship” of the Nicolas Maduro government.
Hundreds of opposition activists rallied to her call on Saturday, when they marched through the wealthy eastern sectors of Caracas.
Well-known members of Lopez’s “Popular Will” (VP) party, such as El Hatillo Mayor David Smolansky and legislator Freddy Guevara also joined the demonstration.
For his part, Guevara read a letter written by Lopez to the crowd, calling on opposition supporters to maintain continuous mobilization against the government and the National Electoral Council in order to ensure that postponed regional elections take place this year.
Lopez also urged his supporters to take part in an “electoral rebellion” in a bid to trigger presidential elections in 2017, a year before they are due to take place.
“Let’s organise a huge consultation in which the people can vote and decide if they want presidential elections in 2017,” reads the letter.
Guevara promised further opposition marches against the government over the coming months.