Back in May we discussed the “disappearance” of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. He had been scooped up by the security forces of that nation’s socialist tyrant, Nicolas Maduro, and hidden away in a high security prison. His family was concerned enough to demand proof of life from the government and many were worried that his health was failing, assuming he wasn’t already dead. The first part of the good news this weekend was that Lopez is, in fact, alive. (Though not terribly “well.”) And on top of that, against all previous expectations, Maduro has released him to home detention. (NBC News, emphasis added)
Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was transferred to house arrest Saturday after spending more than three years behind bars in a military prison.
The Supreme Court, in a statement, said it had granted Lopez the “humanitarian measures” for health reasons and “serious signs of irregularities” in the handling of the case that it did not specify.
Outside Lopez’s house in the capital, Caracas, a few dozen supporters arrived carrying Venezuelan flags to celebrate along with journalists looking for information about whether the transfer may have been part of a larger deal between the opposition and President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
Here’s the short video from the local NBC stringer capturing some of the celebration following his release.
While not a huge step, there’s reason to believe that this might be one of the first signs of Maduro backing down and conceding some ground to the opposition. Lopez has been a major thorn in his side, but now he’s being sent home over “health reasons?” That could be at least a partial admission that he was being abused in prison. And that was only half of the explanation given. Does the phrase “signs of irregularities” in the handling of his arrest, detention and conviction signal an admission of wrongdoing? The Supreme Court is stocked with Maduro loyalists and they wouldn’t be making a move like this without his approval. If they’re considering dropping the charges against Lopez it would be a huge win for the protesters. What’s missing is any sort of indication that Maduro will be cancelling his plans to rewrite the constitution and possibly scheduling a new election. If we see that, then the end may indeed be near for the President and it could come peacefully rather than as a result of complete civil war breaking out.
For some additional reading on the current state of affairs in Venezuela, be sure to check out John Fund’s excellent analysis from this weekend at National Review. He provides some detailed history of the Lopez case and how Maduro has been hoodwinking the country.
Lopez, the mayor of a Caracas suburb, was arrested in 2014 for “incitement to commit a crime” during a peaceful protest he led. The term “kangaroo court” could have been invented to describe the farce of a trial he received, in which the government presented 108 witnesses against him while Lopez was allowed only two of his 60 proposed witnesses. In 2015, the lead prosecutor in his trial fled to Miami and applied for asylum, saying he was ordered to pursue the case even though the government knew the charges were trumped up.
It’s too soon to be running up the victory flags at this point, but these could indeed be signals that Maduro is preparing to bend to the will of his starving and disillusioned people. And if so, this could be the almost unheard of example of how a socialist regime can meet its end at the ballot box rather than through a bloody revolution. Socialism always fails in the end and it almost always does so in a miasma of blood and tragedy. But if the people of Venezuela can somehow avoid that fate it will be a welcome miracle indeed.