Joins Sens. Cruz, Rubio in calling on Venezuelan President Maduro to free political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez
Posted on July 22, 2014
“This sort of human rights abuse in Venezuela, a country badly in need of political discourse and leadership, is something we should not ignore. … By locking [Leopoldo Lopez] up for five months, you are not silencing him. You’re helping make him the Nelson Mandela of Venezuela.” – Lamar Alexander
WASHINGTON, July 22, 2014 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today spoke on the Senate floor saying that the United States is “watching the human rights abuse in Venezuela” and called on Socialist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to release Leopoldo “Leo” Lopez, who is imprisoned in Venezuela for leading a political party in opposition to the oppressive regime of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and current president Maduro. Alexander recognized Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) for their “impassioned” efforts “at the forefront” of the issue and noted that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (R-N.J.) and Ranking Member Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have expressed grave concern about the human rights abuse in Venezuela.
“Hugo Chavez’s government knew that someone like Leopoldo, who’s well educated, charismatic, purposeful, and honest, with a desire to help his fellow Venezuelans, would do nothing but cause problems for their socialist government,” Alexander said. “So, they barred him from running for public office and accused him of misusing public funds.”
Alexander continued, “Leopoldo fought back, taking his case all the way to the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, and he won. I had the opportunity to see him again in 2011 when he did that. I, and anyone who listened, knew he would win his case.
“This sort of human rights abuse in Venezuela, a country badly in need of public discourse and leadership, is something we should not ignore. We should say to President Maduro: Free Leopoldo Lopez. By locking him up for five months, you are not silencing him. You’re helping make him the Nelson Mandela of Venezuela.”
Alexander met Lopez while he was a student in the U.S. and again when Lopez brought his case to the Inter-American Court for Human Rights in 2011, which he won. Lopez has been imprisoned in Venezuela for five months awaiting trial on charges brought against him by the government of President Nicolas Maduro. He previously served as mayor of a municipality outside of Caracas and was overwhelmingly reelected with 81 percent of the vote. As the principal political opponent to Maduro, Lopez was then barred from running for office because of false accusations of misusing public funds. He has actively fought back against this false charge and turned himself in peacefully, as part of his nonviolent, constitutional resistance. Lopez’s current trial is scheduled for Wednesday.
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