The Venezuelan Student Association hosted Leopoldo Lopez Sr., father of Leopoldo López, Venezuelan political prisoner and leader of the Venezuelan Political Party Voluntad Popular. Lopez Sr. spoke about his son’s new book, “Preso Pero Libre” (Imprisoned, Yet Free) and the political climate of Venezuela.
Lopez’s son, Leopoldo Jr., was imprisoned on nebulous charges of arson, conspiracy, murder and terrorism in 2014.
“In 2014, there were protests because they had four students — only four — detained,” Lopez Sr. said.
According to Lopez Sr., more than 4000 people are currently designated “political prisoners” in Venezuela. Human rights groups have prompted a global outcry on Lopez Jr.’s behalf. Due to his potential to lead a revolution in Venezuela, Lopez Jr. remains incarcerated.
Lopez Jr. held wide popular appeal in Venezuela, and The Economist speculates that he was the main target of the ban-from-office placed on hundreds of prospective incumbents around the country. Prior to his arrest, Lopez Jr. headed a branch of the Democratic Unity Party, calling on the nation to peacefully demonstrate for a transition in government. After the government issued a warrant for his arrest, he turned himself in to the authorities before a crowd of thousands of cheering protesters, promising that he would never leave Venezuela.
Lopez has received a 13-year sentence, which has been contested by numerous political bodies outside of Venezuela. While in prison, he composed a set of memoirs, which his sister Diana helped him to smuggle out of prison to publish.
“Sometimes Leopoldo would write on her back, or she would sneak papers in her mouth or translate them from memory,” Lopez Sr. said.
Leopoldo Sr. last met his son over Christmas in 2014. In 2015, Lopez was placed in solitary confinement, and his family was no longer permitted to visit over the holiday.
“He started by saying the elections are rigged, and we cannot believe them,” Leopoldo Sr. said. Chavez proceeded to seize power via a military coup. In the ensuing years, the Venezuelan military has become an instrument of the drug trade, which has since grown to a three or four billion-dollar export industry.
“You would not believe how many people have gotten rich in a socialist government,” said Roberto, an attendee of the event and recent arrival to America from Venezuela, who withheld his last name due to safety concerns.
Lopez Sr. sees a chance for Venezuela to recapture its markets and recover its once dominant economy in South America. A potential candidate to lead the country into the post-Chavez era, Lopez Jr. has a plan to set the country back on its feet.
Despite years of solitary confinement in prison, Leopoldo Sr. says that his son’s determination remains unwavering. Lopez Jr’s book “Imprisoned Yet Free” embodies his will to transcend his incarceration and remain active in the country’s future.
“[Lopez Jr.] is a human being who has lost freedom but who is free in his spirit,” Lopez Sr. said.
Contact Josh Leib Kazdan at jkazdan ‘at’ stanford.edu.