At a speech at the Global Clinton Initiative today, President Obama spoke about the “brave men and women who dare raise their voices” against tyranny around the world. During his speech, Obama specifically mentioned Leopoldo Lopez, the Venezuelan opposition leader currently in prison on dubious charges. Obama said:
So today, we honor those who have given their lives. Among them, in Cameroon, Eric Lembembe; in Libya, Salwa Bugaighis; in Cambodia, Chut Wutty; in Russia, Natalia Estemirova. We stand in solidarity with those who are detained at this very moment. In Venezuela, Leopoldo Lopez; in Burundi, Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa; in Egypt, Ahmed Maher; in China, Liu Xiaobo; and now Ilham Tohti; in Vietnam, Father Ly. And so many others. They deserve to be free. They ought to be released.
This growing crackdown on civil society is a campaign to undermine the very idea of democracy. And what’s needed is an even stronger campaign to defend democracy.
The speech focused on what Obama calls “civil society’; broadly speaking, one that upholds the democratic principles of freedom of expression. He spoke on the work that the United States has done – and continues to do – to help spread democratic ideals throughout the world, and characterized people like Lopez who fight for democracy around the world as:
… those who are pushing the boulder up the hill to make sure that the world is a little bit of a better place.
Obama ended his speech with some inspirational words to help the spirits of those struggling for liberty around the world:
No matter how dark the hour, we remember those words of Dr. King: “The time is always ripe to do right.” And Dr. King also said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Below, a video showing the entirety of Obama’s remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative today:
Maduro Goes to the U.N.
Maduro spoke before a meeting of the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City today, one day before the organization’s General Assembly meets in the same city.
During his speech, Maduro said:
… we are here to bring the voice of Venezuela, a dignified Venezuela, a Venezuela that is respected and loved around the world, because what I receive in these hallways – between greetings from African, Asian, and Latin American delegations – is affection and memories… the memory of Chavez is alive. It lives in the hallways of the United Nations. It’s more alive than ever.
Maduro spoke more specifically on Chavez’s legacy, and how he believes it to be alive in well more than a year after his death:
I met with one of the presidents here, we met in a corner. Someone told him: “Look, here comes the president of Venezuela!” And he saw me, and when he shook my hand he said, “Chavez!” That’s what he told me, remembering [Chavez].
Chavez is alive, more alive than ever, and we take him everywhere in our thoughts. Our hearts continue to fight for the world we are going to build, because we are going to rebuild the world. We are going to save the world alongside the people.
Maduro also spoke on climate change in general, and used the platform to criticize what he called “capitalist solutions” to climate change:
Can anyone believe… that multinational corporationsare capable of becoming, from one day to the next, main players in saving the planet?
From America we raise our voice in protest and voice our indignation before these [economic] models that now pretend to call themselves “green” economies.
Maduro was welcomed with open arms at an event in the Bronx, where he spoke to a group of supporters:
Media Harassment Continues
A judge issued an arrest warrant today for Carlos Genatios and Francisco Layrisee, writer and director (respectively) of Tal Cual, a publication that is often critical of the government. The order stems from an accusation made by National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, who accused the two men of defaming him earlier this year.
According to Cabello, Genatios defamed him in a piece published early this year titled “Patria, Socialismo o Muerte” [“Country, Socialism or Death”, a common PSUV slogan]. In the piece, Genatios wrote that Cabello had said, “anyone who doesn’t like the insecurity in the country should move away”, something Cabello denies saying. Genatios and Tal Cual later redacted the statement, but Cabello did not accept the gesture.
Teodoro Petkoff, head of the publication, wrote on the case five months ago when it began, saying:
This is about an attack against the freedom of expression, against one of the few independent media outlets that are left…