“I am prey, our family is prey and all of and Venezuela is prey” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Venezuelan Lilian Tintori, wife of Leopoldo Lopez, in Prague
Venezuelan Lilian Tintori, wife of Leopoldo Lopez, in Prague

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Prague, 13 October 2014 – We met a year ago in beautiful Prague at Forum 2000, with human rights activists from all over the world. Unlike that October, we are now missing Leopoldo Lopez. The Venezuelan politician and activist has been imprisoned since early this year, accused of various crimes that have all the hallmarks of a political montage.

Amid the celebrations for the quarter century of the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic, Lilian Tintori speaks with 14ymedio about repression in Venezuela.

Question. Which led to Leopoldo López being imprisoned?

Response. My husband Leopoldo Lopez is in prison for saying what all of Venezuela wanted to hear. The majority of Venezuelans want change. In January he raised his voice and started a peaceful campaign in the streets for constitutional change in Venezuela. By the second month of the protests there were so many people in the streets that they ambushed him and put out an order to arrest him for murder. Something that has nothing to do with Leopoldo, who is a progressive leader who has fought for freedoms, for democracy. He was the mayor of Chacao twice and won international awards for the transparency of his administration.

I think they are afraid of his leadership. There is no evidence against him. They accuses him of arson and damage to public buildings, but Leopoldo doesn’t believe in violence as a method to bring about change.

Q. The UN just released a resolution demanding that Leopoldo be released immediately. How has that been received by Nicolas Maduro’s government?

R. Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez told the UN not to meddle in the internal affairs of Venezuela. To many of us that seemed irresponsible, because the UN is the most important organization in the world with regards to the promotion and protection of human rights, covenants to which Venezuela is a signatory. So the Venezuelan government should abide by a decision of the UN. Thus, we are expecting Leopoldo’s release within the next few hours.

The Government should abide by a UN decision. Thus, we are expecting Leopoldo’s release within the next few hours.

Q. Sometimes in the middle of the political connotations of such an event, one loses the human dimension a little. How has your family endured this imprisonment?

R. It’s very difficult and very hard to have a relative imprisoned. Much like the final loss of someone because he can’t be present in our lives. I can only see him when I visit. Right now I’m acting and mom and dad for our children. I am taking my children out alone and every family dynamic falls on my shoulders.

I can only be with Leopold when I visit him in prison and facing up to the military is very distressing. To go through a military search and they record all the conversations when we’re together, it makes me feel persecuted all the time. So I am prey, our family is prey and all of and Venezuela is prey.

Q. It seems at this point that Chavismo is confronting itself and there are attacks within their own ranks.

R. Venezuela is affected by violence, it is hurt, frustrated and unhappy because we do not like it. We reject violence. We reject weapons, the “Colectivos” and these murders are not what we want for our country. Definitely this is the result of years and years of violence in Venezuela, but I think that violent environment is going to end, the Colectivos themselves want a change, Chavistas themselves want a change. They want well-being, freedom to choose their food, to have medicine, to be safe walking the streets. We have a tremendous inflation, insecurity in the streets. They kidnap you, they kill you.

Q. And in those circumstances would not it be easier for you and your family to go into exile?

R. Easy yes, but my commitment is to Venezuelans. When Leopoldo asked me to marry him, he asked me to marry Venezuela and I said yes. He asked me to marry a project for a better Venezuela and this country needs us. This nation needs human rights to be respected throughout the country, not only for Leopoldo Lopez but also for all Venezuelans.