Claims of conspiracy and sabotage, ones all-too-familiar for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, resulted in the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats from Venezuela on February 16th. As might be expected, the decision was made after the U.S. State Department articulated its concerns over the perpetual discord throughout the nation, most evident in the February 12th protest that gained international attention. The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry was quick to issue a statement critiquing the U.S. government, saying, “The U.S. government is lying why they denounce the arrest of anti-peaceful protesters. The world must know that there is sufficient evidence that the groups have caused violence in recent days headed by Mr. Leopoldo López.”1
Mr. López, former mayor of Chacao, Venezuela and a political activist, led the opposition march held on February 18th in order to combat Maduro’s government and the principal complaints of the opposition: insecurity, inflation, and scarcity of basic goods (like milk and toilet paper). In a Youtube video released on February 16th López recorded himself in an undisclosed location and instructed all of his followers to walk with him to Venezuela Plaza, where the protest on February 12th occurred.2 He intended to end the march, alone, at the Venezuelan Ministry of Justice, to avoid putting more citizens’ lives at risk as he handed himself over to the authorities. As he stated, “I will be there to show my face. I have nothing to be afraid of... I have been a Venezuelan committed to our country, to our people, to our constitution and to our future. If there is some decision to illegally imprison me, well, I will be there to assume this persecution and this infamous decision by the state.”
The alleged detainment and eventual imprisonment of Leopoldo López may serve more as an advantage than as a setback for opposition momentum. According to Oswaldo Ramirez, a political analyst in Caracas, “He would be much more powerful behind bars—he would be an icon of the struggle.”3 For people who have already been injured in the struggle for peace and transparency from their government, victims’ sense of urgency to fight back is as strong as ever. Leonardo Blanco, a member of the opposition and one of the casualties from the February 12th protests in Caracas, pledges that he’s just waiting for the pain of a bullet wound in his abdomen to subside so he can go back out and protest just as he did before.4 This is the type of conviction that Maduro will not have the power to quell during his presidency. Even with the dead, injured, and imprisoned people that have marked this period of turmoil for the Venezuelan people, they will continue to march as catalysts for change towards the betterment of the nation.
1. Quiñones, Nelson. "Venezuela orders three U.S. diplomatic officials out of the country." CNN News. 17 February 2014. n. pag. Web. 18 February 2014.
2. "Desde la clandestinidad Leopoldo López envía un mensaje al país." Youtube. 16 February 2014. n. pag. Web. 18 February 2014.
3. Wyss, Jim. "Venezuela braces for dueling protests amid U.S. diplomatic border." Miami Herald. 17 February 2014. n. pag. 18 February 2014.
4. Pardo, Daniel. "Quiénes son las víctimas de las protestas en Venezuela?" BBC Mundo. 14 February 2014. n. pag. 18 February 2014.