Last night, Leopoldo Lopez was found guilty by judge Susana Barreiros last night for the crimes of associating for the purposes of committing a crime, public instigation, damaging public property an arson. The verdict was a total victory for the prosecution, and Lopez was sentenced to 13 years, 9 months, 7 days and 12 hours at the Ramo Verde military prison outside of Caracas.
The sentence means that Lopez will remain in Ramo Verde until the year 2029.
Three students tried alongside Lopez were also found guilty. Christian Holdak was sentenced to 10 years, 6 months and 7 days; Damian Martin and Angel Gonzalez were each sentenced to 4 years and 6 months. It appears that they will be allowed to serve their sentences at home.
After leaving the Palacio de Justicia last night, Holdak said:
I knew that I was going to receive a sentence, because [the judge] was ordered to do so. At least I’m not leaving here in handcuffs.
Defense Will Appeal
It’s not a sentence with a solid legal basis, with an analysis that adheres strictly to the law. It is pure complacency, not a jurisdictional act. It does not contain an argument or evidentary analysis, much less judicial analysis.
Gutierrez said that the appeal process will allow the defense to demonstrate that the verdict is completely alien to the facts. He also said:
We will continue to follow the procedures that our justice system allows us, and if these procedures do not allow us to shine light on the truth, then there are other democratic paths, such as voting and legislature, to find an effective justice.
Reactions to Verdict Pour In
It was a frantic night on social media platforms last night as Venezuelans and interested parties responded to the verdict.
Below, a video of the scene outside the Palacio de Justicia last night, along with my translation:
Man in Blue Shirt: … the unjust 18-month trial that our leader, Leopoldo Lopez, had to face. It ends today with a thirteen year sentence.
Woman in Orange Hat: … all the strength. Free! Free! Free! Leopoldo is always free. He’s with you.
Lilian Tintori: When we heard the verdict — an unjust sentence for Leopoldo Lopez — Leopoldo came up to my around the guards and he grabbed my hand and said, “Lilian, give Venezuela this message: ‘To the Venezuelan people: remain calm. Dignity! Do not lose hope for even one minute. Strength and faith.” After, a soldier came with a bulletproof vest and the handcuffs, and Leopoldo went like this [presents wrists for handcuffs] with pride. “Handcuff me! The judge will not remove these handcuffs, nor will the unjust justice. These handcuffs will be removed by the people of Venezuela.”
[crowd chants, “Si se puede! Liberen a Leopoldo!” (“Yes we can! Free Leopoldo!”)]
Tintori: Remain calm and dignified, with strength and lots of faith. Today, with his words, Leopoldo did not defend himself. With his words today, Leopoldo defended us all. Every single one of us, every Venezuelan. I ask you to please be with the family of Horacio Blanco, a member of Voluntad Popular who unfortunately died today at the Palace of Justice thanks to the violence there due to the arrival of a pro-government group sent there by the government to create violence. Strength and faith! [crowd joins in chant].
As Leopoldo has always said, let us not give in to provocations. Let’s stick with strength, faith, the truth, our points [and continue to] work with the people of Venezuela through difficult times. Let us remain calm and await the call that Leopoldo will make of us along with his [Mesa de la] Unidad colleagues. Let’s wait for this call with calm, dignity and strength — but with lots of calm.
Freddy Guevara: Tomorrow, Leopoldo will speak to the country. We stress one really clear part of Leopoldo’s message: [unintelligible], that we don’t fall into the government’s game which is to promote violence just as it did today, and that we await his call — the call he will make along with the Unidad, the people, the students — that without a doubt will drive action. We are a people who do not surrender and we will not allow injustice to stand or corrupt officials to remain hidden from history. In fact, we will expose them. This is the moral strength that our people have.
Difficult days are coming, but we will achieve this.
Jesus Torrealba: Dear Government people: if you think that through this farce that you’ve put up today before the country and the world you feel like you’re an all-powerful government, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re wrong. What you’re doing today is demonstrating your cowardice. Today, it is all the more clear that they have the government, but not the power. The people, the citizens have the power! The people will free Leopoldo Lopez. […} at the next National Assembly, an amnesty and reconciliation law. The people will free Lopez from the claws of his captors, and the 78 other political prisoners; all of our exiles, and the parents of the one thousand students who are subject to these judicial proceedings. The brave people will achieve this, because the brave people have the power, not them. They barely have the government, but not the power.
[crowd chants, “La voluntad es popular!” (“There is popular will!”)]
Opposition figure Maria Corina Machado took to Twitter to say:
Venezuelans, from now on Leopoldo’s liberty is not in the hands of Judge Barreiros. It’s in ours.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, the director for the Americas at Amnesty International, said:
The charges against Leopoldo Lopez were never adequately substantiated, and the sentence against him has a clear political motivation. His only crime is being the leader of an opposition party in Venezuela.
In a country without judicial independence, a provisional judge without irremovability has condemned four innocent people at the end of a process in which the Public Ministry did not provide any evidence to link them to any crime, and the accused were not allowed to adequately defend themselves.
Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the Spanish Podemos party – which has been criticized for having links to the PSUV – said:
We don’t like that someone is being sentenced for doing politics, whoever he may be. We think that in politics, differences have to be settled through the electoral process, and I wish that this man [Lopez] could be a part of the elections so that Venezuelans could be the ones to decide through their vote who should run the country.
The European Union’s External Action Service said:
The trial against Mr. Leopoldo Lopez, the national coordinator of the Voluntad Popular party, and the students Christian Holdack, Marcos Coello, Demian Martin and Angel Gonzalez did not afford the accused the adequate guarantees of transparency and the due process of law.
Leopoldo Lopez Gil, Leopoldo Lopez’s father, said:
I feel that this is an unjust sentence. As a father, it hurts me tremendously, and I’m thinking about Leopoldo’s innocence.
Lopez Gil also criticized Judge Barreiros for what he considers to be the great harm she has caused the students:
I cannot understand how this lady can justify punishing a young person who’s just starting out their lives and must now serve a 10 year sentence.
On speaking with Lilian Tintori and Leopoldo’s mother, Lopez Gil said:
The message they gave me was that I should be proud of my son, and I am. I’m proud of my family and of the honest Venezuelans who do the right things for this country.
Finally, a fitting piece by political cartoonist Jorge Cruz from March of this year:
Note: I will be out of the city tomorrow and will probably not have access to the internet. It is possible that I will not be able to write the daily update tomorrow.
Questions/Comments? E-mail me: email@example.com