Leopoldo Lopez, a leading opposition figure and arguably the country’s most famous political prisoner, made a rare press appearance today in an interview published by Spain’s ABC.
The ABC article reports on a letter that Lopez wrote, and which was read aloud by his mother at a rally in Madrid, Spain. In the letter, Lopez called on the international community to not recognize Maduro as President of Venezuela when he is sworn in on January 10 of next year, given the fraudulent nature of the May 20 presidential election.
Lopez wrote that “it is key” that the international community recognize “that a dictator who usurped the presidency of the Republic begins his term” on January 10, in reference to Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony. This is because, Lopez argues, Maduro “was not elected in free and democratic elections”, referencing the fraudulent presidential election of May 20.
As a result, Lopez argues:
Democratic Venezuela must make a clear call: [the international community] must completely ignore Nicolas Mauro as president of Venezuela and all of the decisions that he makes as a usurper of power. These will me illegal and illegitimate decisions.
Lopez was arrested in February 2014 at the start of that year’s anti-government protest movement and charged with a wide range of crimes, all stemming from the regime’s assertion that he was the mastermind of the demonstrations. His trial was universally recognized by human rights organizations as a complete sham.
In September 2015, Lopez was sentenced to nearly fourteen years in prison, and after serving out three years in the Ramo Verde military prison, he was transferred to house arrest where he remains today.
La Patilla Shares Alleged Internet Law Leak
La Patilla shared a document today that it claims to be a draft of a new regime bill that will regulate internet use in the country.
According to the website, the document is being drafted by Maduro’s Constituent Assembly, a legislative body made up of regime-picked supporters who have unchecked power in Venezuela, even above those of the Supreme Court.
There are a number of articles in the law that, if adopted, will severely limit freedom of expression and of the press in Venezuela. In particular:
- Article 9: This article gives the regime the power to request “data” in the hands of public and/or private entities that operate on the internet, “whenever [the regime] requires them, with the goal of preventing threats and counteracting harm that might come to security in cyberspace”. The same article establishes that companies must comply with the regime’s request to hand over any data when requested.
- Article 26: This article compels internet service provides to take a number of active measures on behalf of the regime in regards to content that is posted and shared through the internet. In particular, the article demands that internet service providers “avoid and neutralize the sharing of information deemed classified”; provide the regime with the personal information and other data on individuals who have been deemed to be “in violation of the law”; and “prevent, denounce and eliminate” the spreading of information “the honour, private life, intimacy, image, [and] reputation” of individuals.
The language used in the draft bill–and in particular in articles 9 and 26–is so vague that it could be used to justify the persecution of media outlets and journalists. For example, as currently worded, the law could be used to shut down this website, given that the critical information that it posts could be considered to be an attack on the “honour” of regime officials.
It is not clear whether the law is still being drafted, or what stage of the law’s development the documented that La Patilla shared represents.
Maduro Meets Putin in Moscow
After arriving in Russia earlier today, Maduro met his Russian homologue Vladimir Putin. Below, an image of the two leaders shaking hands earlier today:
Our working meeting in the Russian Federation with President Vladimir Putin begins now, [during which] we will cover various topics, in the framework of a broad agenda of bilateral cooperation.
Earlier in the day, the spokesperson for the Russian government, Dimitri Peskov, told journalists that Maduro and Putin will talk about “the help that Venezuelan authorities need”.
It is not clear what exactly Peskov meant by the comment.
Below, another image of Maduro and Putin meeting today:
More images of the meeting, this time from vice president Delcy Rodriguez:
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, meets [President Maduro] in his visit to this sister Nation [sic]. Russia and Venezuela will continue to strengthen their bilateral strategic and cooperative relations in the international stage for a multi-polar world [that] respects multilateralism!
After the meeting, Maduro went out for a stroll in Moscow’s picturesque streets. In the video below, he talks a bit about the meeting:
We’re walking in the streets of Moscow for a bit after a successful meeting, the first working meeting, with President Putin. Good agreements when it comes to finance, oil, weapons systems, commerce, and others, which we will solidify with the signing of good contracts [sic] tomorrow.
It’s nighttime here. Ten degrees below zero. Hello to the people of Venezuela! We are in permanent contact, in permanent battle, from Moscow. For Venezuela. For our homeland.
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