Forum 2000 Expresses Concern Over Arrest Warrant for Venezuelan Opposition Leader Leopoldo López.

The Forum 2000 Foundation expresses deep concern over the arrest warrant issued by the Venezuelan authorities for Leopoldo López, economist, politician and opposition leader. Mr. López is currently the National Coordinator of Voluntad Popular, an opposition party. His arrest was ordered after a series of demonstrations around the country which have criticized the government of President Nicolás Maduro for failing to tackle inflation, crime and the shortage of staple goods. The current protests have already led to the loss of three lives and dozens of injured and detained.

Mr. López was accused of inciting protests and charged with allegations that include murder and terrorism. We call on the Venezuelan government to refrain from using the legal system to persecute those who criticize its behavior and performance. Limiting the right to freedom of assembly and expression constitutes a violation of basic democratic norms.

Leopoldo López participated in the annual Forum 2000 Conference “Societies in Transition” held in Prague in September 2013. Through his talks, he stressed the need to forestall clashes by seeking unifying and common ideas based in a moral setting. Mr. López has long been active in Venezuelan politics and public life and defends his stance as pacifist, denying accusations presented by the authorities. I have a clear conscience because we called for peace,” López told the press. “We won’t retreat and we can’t retreat because this is about our future, about our children, about millions of people,” he added.

In the light of this, we urge Venezuelan authorities to revoke the arrest warrant for Mr. Leopoldo López immediately. We call on the government in Venezuela to respect, protect and promote the right to peaceful assembly, uphold the right to freedom of association and include opposition and dissent voices in the decision-making process. Furthermore, the authorities should order a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the deaths of protesters that have occurred in recent days. The Forum 2000 Foundation reaffirms its commitment to monitor further developments in Venezuela.