Leopoldo López

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Leopoldo López (2012)

Leopoldo López Mendoza (born 29 April 1971 in Caracas) is a Venezuelan politician. He was mayor of the municipio of Chacao, one of the five municipalities of Greater Caracas, from 2000 to 2008. López has been the leader of the opposition Voluntad Popular party since 2009. He played a leading role in the 2014 anti-government protests

He has since been detained several times, was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in 2015, and was transferred from prison to house arrest in 2017.[1] Human rights organizations labeled him a political prisoner. On 30 April 2019, he was freed by soldiers not loyal to the government and, after some participation in protests, arrived at the Spanish embassy, from which he fled abroad in October 2020.[2]


Leopoldo López’s father, Spanish-Venezuelan Leopoldo López Gil, was an editor at El Nacional[3] and became a member of the European Parliament with the 2019 elections.[4]

López, who has two sisters, spent his youth in Caracas. From 1989 to 1993, he studied sociology at Kenyon College in the US state of Ohio. He followed up with postgraduate studies at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, graduating with a Master of Public Policy in 1996.[5]

In 2000, he was one of the founders of the Primero Justicia party.[6] From 2000 to 2008, he was mayor of Chacao de Caracas. In the first election, he was elected with a majority of 51% of the vote. When he was re-elected in 2004, his vote share was 79.5%.

In the 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chávez, López was among those who took to the streets against Chávez. He is one of the signatories of the so-called “Carmona Decree”, which was intended to legitimize the coup government under Pedro Carmona.[7][8]

In 2007, López married radio and television presenter and former kitesurfing champion Lilian Tintori. The two have a daughter and a son.

In December 2009, he founded the Voluntad Popular(People’s Will) party. For the presidential election in October 2012, López had initially declared his candidacy. However, he then withdrew his candidacy and supported Henrique Capriles.[9]


In 2008, Venezuela’s Supreme Comptroller, Clodosbaldo Russián, stripped him of his right to stand for election on two counts of embezzlement of public funds.[10] This prohibited him from holding public office until 2014. As mayor of Chacao, he had been indicted for corruption in 2005, along with 427 other politicians from both political camps.[10] He was not legally convicted because it was an “administrative penalty” provided for in the Venezuelan anti-corruption law.[11][10]

In September 2011, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled the sentence illegal because only a proper court in a criminal trial could impose such a sentence. However, the Court did not comment on the propriety of the corruption charges against López.[12] The Supreme Court in Venezuela, however, called the ruling “unenforceable.”[11][10]

Human Rights Watch accuses the Venezuelan Supreme Court of protecting Hugo Chávez’s “political agenda” instead of dispensing justice.[13][14] The Carter Center published an open letter stating that Venezuela is the only country, apart from the military tribunals of Alberto Fujimori’s regime in Peru, that has rejected decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.[15]

Detention and house arrest

Since 12 February 2014, there have been student protests in Venezuela over what the protesters see as the misguided economic policies under President Nicolás Maduro, which Leopoldo López, among others, had called for (see Protests in Venezuela 2014). On the very first day of the protests, three people were killed, including one government and two opposition supporters. Eight members of the domestic intelligence service Sebin were arrested on suspicion of being responsible for two of the deaths.[16] The head of the intelligence service was dismissed.

Prosecutors sought arrest warrants for López on charges of inciting violence, membership in a criminal organization, murder, and terrorism, which were eventually issued by a judge.[17] López himself denied his guilt, but surrendered to authorities during another demonstration on February 18 and was taken to a military prison outside Caracas.[18] The investigating judge dropped the murder and terrorism charges, but confirmed pretrial detention on the remaining charges.[19] A detention review date scheduled for 8 May 2014 was postponed at short notice.[20]

Meanwhile, international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called for López’ immediate and unconditional release or clear evidence of his guilt. According to these organizations, López’ was merely exercising his constitutional right to freedom of expression and demonstration.[21] López’s role as one of the leading spokespersons for the opposition in the ongoing protests was henceforth assumed by his wife, Lilian Tintori, who thus became nationally and internationally known virtually overnight.[22] The United Nations Commission on Human Rights also classified the arrest as arbitrary and called for its release.[23]

On 10 September 2015, the Caracas court sentenced him to 13 years, nine months and seven days imprisonment for incitement to violence and conspiracy. His defense announced it would appeal the sentence.[24] An amnesty law passed by the opposition majority in the Venezuelan parliament, which would have also benefited López, was declared invalid by the Supreme Court in April 2016.[25]

In July 2017, he was transferred to house arrest; the Supreme Court said there were “signs of irregularities in his case”.[26] On 1 August 2017, the regime had him captured again and sent to Ramo Verde prison.[27]

Four days later, on August 5, 2017, Leopoldo López was released from prison and brought home, where he had been under house arrest ever since.[28][29]

Leaving house arrest, staying in embassies

On 30 April 2019, he appeared at the La Carlota airbase in Caracas after a symbolic “pardon” by Juan Guaidó, following his release from house arrest by a military unit.[30] Diosdado Cabello, the vice president of Venezuela’s Socialist Party, confirmed later in the day that a unit of the domestic intelligence agency Sebin had facilitated López’s release,[31] in what the New York Times described as the involvement of members no longer loyal to the government in the liberation.[32] The following day, according to witnesses, his home was ransacked by members of the SEBIN; electronic equipment and also food were stolen.[33]

López called on the people of Venezuela to take to the streets to bring about the changes everyone dreamed of.[34] During the mass demonstration of that day, which was concentrated in the eastern parts of Caracas around Chacao, he initially stayed as a guest at the Chilean Embassy, where he decided to move to the Spanish Embassy.[35] He was convinced that the dictatorship would end, that there were more Venezuelans who loved their country than those who were destroying it with their corruption.[33] In October 2020, he fled abroad.[2]

Individual references

  1. Trasladan a Leopoldo López de nuevo a su casa, of August 5, 2017 (Spanish)
  2. a b DER SPIEGEL:Opposition member Leopoldo López leaves Spanish embassy and flees the country – DER SPIEGEL – Politik.Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  3. Roberto Lovato:The Making of Leopoldo López.In: ForeignPolicy. Retrieved October 25, 2020 (American English).
  4. Guaido Ally, Under Spanish Protection, Forming Shadow Venezuelan Cabinet | Voice of America – English.Retrieved 25 October 2020 (English).
  5. Leopoldo López Mendoza.In: Oficinadel Alcalde, Chacao. Archived fromOriginal31December 2007; retrieved 9 September 2008.
  6. Ingrid Núñez Muñoz, Nury Pineda Morán Nuevos Partidos, Nuevos Liderazgos: Primero Justicia, retrieved 25 April 2019 (Spanish)
  7. Interim Venezuelan president sworn in, retrieved 25 April 2019 (English)
  8. Acta de constitución del Gobierno de Transición Democrática y Unidad Nacional, retrieved 25 April 2019 (Spanish)
  9. Tobias Lambert:Opposition in Venezuela chooses its presidential candidate.In: america21. 12 December 2011, accessed 15 June 2012.
  10. a b c d Jan Kühn:Venezuela argues over anti-corruption.In: amerika21. 19 September 2011, retrieved 19 October 2011.
  11. a b Chavez challenger remains shut down.In: FrankfurterRundschau. 18 October 2011, retrieved 18 October 2011.
  12. Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos:Caso López Mendoza Vs. Venezuela. Fondo Reparaciones y Costas. Sentencia de 1 de septiembre de 2011. Serie C No. 233.In: 1 September 2011, retrieved 15 June 2012.
  13. HRW fustiga decisión del TSJ contra Leopoldo López.(Memento of 10 December 2015 in the Internet Archive) In:, 18 October 2011
  14. A Bolívar Ready to Fight Against the Bolivarian State. In: The New York Times, 21 October 2011
  15. Declaration of the Friends of the Inter-American Democratic Charter on the Venezuelan Decision Regarding the Ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In: Carter Center, 21 October 2011
  16. Ocho funcionarios del Sebin detenidos por hechos de violencia.(Memento of 8 March 2014 in the Internet Archive) In:, 26 February 2014
  17. Jueza ordenó al Sebin capturar a Leopoldo López. In:, 13 February 2013
  18. A deep rift through Venezuela. In:, 19 February 2014
  19. Situation in Venezuela remains tense. In:, 20 February 2014
  20. Peter Gaupp No progress in Venezuela: splitting, stalling, suppressing. In:, May 9, 2014
  21. Venezuela: Trial of opposition leader an affront to justice and free assembly. In:, 19 February 2014
  22. La pareja estrella de la política venezolana. In:, 19 February 2014, retrieved 7 March 2014
  23. Maduro’s next victim, NZZ, 4 December 2014
  24. Opposition leader sentenced to 14 years in prison. In:
  25. Venezuela’s top court strikes down opposition-backed amnesty law. In:, 12 April 2016 (English)
  26. Venezuelan opposition leader moved to house arrest. In:, 8 July 2017, retrieved on 8 July 2017
  27. Líderes políticos reaccionan ante traslado de Ledezma y López a Ramo Verde.In: La Patilla. 1 August 2017, retrieved 1 August 2017 (European Spanish).
  28. Venezuela’s Leopoldo Lopez rescues to house arrest.In: CNN. August 6, 2017, retrieved April 3, 2019 (en-EN).
  29. Venezuela’s opposition leader López released from prison from August 6, 2017
  30. Militares de Guaidó liberan a Leopoldo López del arresto domiciliario tras 5 años,, April 30, 2019
  31. Juan Guaidó announces the final phase of his “Operation Freedom” in Venezuela.In: NZZ. May 1, 2019, retrieved on May 1, 2019.
  32. Another day of protest in Caracas; but it’s not the end, NYT, April 30, 2019
  33. a b Fuerzas chavistas allanaron y robaron la casa de Leopoldo López en Caracas, infobae, May 1, 2019
  34. Leopoldo López llama a “salir a la calle” a todos los venezolanos, rtve, April 30, 2019
  35. Leopoldo López y su familia dejan la embajada de Chile y se van a la de España tras su liberación, rtve, 30 April 2019

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