Imprisoned leader: “I won’t exchange Maduro’s ouster for my freedom”

Leopoldo López-Zapatero
Former President of Spain Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero met imprisoned leader Leopoldo López. (HispanTV)

EspañolIn an attempt to establish a dialogue between the Venezuelan opposition and Nicolás Maduro‘s administration, former President of Spain Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero managed to meet with political prisoner Leopoldo López.

During their conversation, López said he would not negotiate his freedom in order to call off the recall referendum, as has been suggested. He insisted that the referendum was still the only possible solution to the country’s worsening economic and humanitarian crisis.

Zapatero is the only former president authorized by the Venezuelan government to visit López.

The former Spanish leader’s visit came after Luis Almagro, head of the Organization of American States (OAS), moved to invoke the Democratic Charter against Venezuela due to Maduro’s obstruction of the referendum process. Although some countries in the region have requested a dialogue between the government and the opposition to solve the current crisis, the opposition is united: it will consider establishing a dialogue with the government only after the referendum is scheduled. López’s position strengthens this stance.

Zapatero was named as a mediator by the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), which the Venezuelan opposition views with mistrust since the late Hugo Chávez was one of the organization’s creators.

The conversation between Zapatero and López, which took place on the ground floor of the Ramo Verde Prison, lasted two hours. Adriana López, the political prisoner’s daughter, was a witness.

According to López’s lawyer Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, Zapatero insisted that López, who leads Voluntad Popular (Popular Will), a political party, should support the opposition’s dialogue with the government. López said he would not consider the request while the recall referendum was the only solution to the country’s problems.

“I won’t negotiate my freedom in exchange for the recall referendum against Nicolás Maduro. My particular situation does not play a part in the amnesty law (for political prisoners), nor does it involve a presidential pardon nor a national dialogue. Nor does it have to do to the opposition’s demands to the government before the international community.”

Leopoldo López tweeted some of the details about his conversation with Spain’s former president.

The government must authorize the visit (to the Ramo Verde Prison) of the Episcopal Conference, of members of the opposition, and of all the former presidents who have requested it.

I confirmed the importance of liberating all political prisoners. Before my own liberty is Venezuela’s freedom!

The change in the constitution in 2016 for which we have fought so hard is not negotiable! The Venezuelan people want a recall referendum in 2016.

I told (Zapatero) that no conversation or dialogue can be placed above the greater good: achieving a change to the constitution in 2016!

I expressed my concern for everything that is happening in the country, for the profound humanitarian crisis and the need to open humanitarian assistance.

The newspaper ABC in Spain explained the details of the meeting as well, reporting that Zapatero was seeking to convince López to request a negotiation with the government in which the recall referendum could be set aside.

No recall, no dialogue

Though the Venezuelan opposition appeared to be divided, the Organization of Democratic Unity (MUD) agreed that there is no possibility of dialogue with the government unless the recall referendum is scheduled beforehand.

Alfonso Marquina, an opposition member of the National Assembly, said that the National Electoral Council must publish a schedule for the referendum.

“As a prerequisite to starting the dialogue,” he said, “we ask for the publication of the official schedule for the recall referendum. It’s the people’s right”.

Marquina said that additional mediators could also include Martín Torrijos and Leonel Fernández, former presidents of Panama and the Dominican Republic, as well as Unasur.

He added that the international mediators will discuss possible solution to Venezuela’s problems, hopefully within two or three months.

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