If you live in the United States and you loudly and strongly criticize President Trump, you’re invited to effectively become a guest host on MSNBC and your face and voice become well known across the land. In Venezuela, if you loudly and strongly criticize President Nicolas Maduro, you’re invited to take up residence in a heavily fortified prison where you eventually disappear from sight… assuming you’re still even alive.

That seems to be what’s happened to opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. For those not familiar, Lopez was one the earliest public opponents of Maduro’s regime, speaking out and calling for reforms. His reward for his civic participation was to be locked away in the heavily guarded Ramo Verde prison. And that took place back in 2014, just as a reminder to those of you who might think that Maduro’s tyrannical antics only began recently. For a couple of years he was at least getting visits from his wife and other relatives, but in April of this year Lopez simply disappeared and nobody was allowed to see him. I caught this news from our friend Fausta at Fausta’s Blog. (Still an indispensable resource for all political news from the Latin American world.) Here’s one of the key clues to how things got this bad.

I posted on Thursday

Following rumours that jailed Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez had been moved from his cell to a military hospital, a government lawmaker showed a “proof of life” video of him in his cell. He had been reported dead earlier.

I posted the video of a very buff young man,

Así está el Sr Leopoldo López, acababa de cenar y ya iba a dormir, pero el show de la derecha lo despertó
pic.twitter.com/1YC7yyFxRt

— Con el Mazo Dando (@ConElMazoDando) May 4, 2017

which López’s family has denounced as fake.

Read Fausta’s full coverage at the link because this is a staggeringly awful story, but one of the key elements is the brutal reprisal against Lopez by the government and their attempts to apparently cover it up. More than a month ago, authorities reportedly demanded that Lopez go out from his prison cell and denounce the protests in the streets, hoping to use his appeal among the public to tamp things down. Lopez refused and was allegedly beaten severely, suffering abdominal injuries. Since that time nobody has seen him. When the family demanded “proof of life” the government supplied a video of a young, healthy looking man who apparently wasn’t even Lopez.

So is he alive or dead? The story is finally getting some traction in the MSM, with ABC covering it this week.

Relatives and lawyers of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez want the Red Cross to verify his health and are seeking to bring President Nicolas Maduro’s government before a Spanish court for alleged terrorism crimes.

Spain’s laws allow judges to take on cases for crimes committed outside of the country as long as the victims are Spanish, although very few have succeeded.

The family’s lawyers said Friday that at least two opposition leaders with Spanish passports are being held in Venezuelan prisons in circumstances similar to Lopez’s.

Lopez’s father and sister also said they doubt the veracity of the video released Thursday by the leader of the ruling socialist party in Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, in response to rumors spreading online about Lopez’s health.

You’re probably sick of hearing me say it by now, but it remains true. This is how socialism always ends. Repression, violence, death, starvation and riots. And political enemies of the socialist tyrant aren’t simply denounced in public, They are thrown into dark cells and very likely killed with no system of justice in place to ensure a fair trial or humane punishment upon conviction. Venezuela is falling apart before our eyes and its citizens are the ones paying the ultimate price for falling under the shadow of socialism.