Venezuelan opposition leader's release aided by Antigua-Barbuda
ST JOHN’S, Antigua — Friday’s surprise release of opposition leader Leopoldo López to house arrest by Venezuela’s Supreme Court of Justice was brought about in part by quiet diplomacy by Antigua and Barbuda officials, Prime Minister Gaston Browne revealed in a statement on Saturday.
Welcoming the news of López’s release from prison, Browne said his release should be regarded as a confidence building measure between the government and opposition political parties in Venezuela in efforts to reinvigorate a dialogue between them that leads to a Venezuelan solution to the political impasse and economic and social difficulties facing the country.
“I can reveal that, over the last few months, representatives of my government have engaged in quiet diplomacy with Venezuelan officials in promotion of confidence building measures, such as the release from jail of Mr López,” he said.
In addition to conversations with representatives of the Venezuelan government and the opposition, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Sir Ronald Sanders, also spoke on the phone last month with Lilian Tintori, López’s wife.
“I urge all parties to seize this good faith measure to engage in the dialogue that is required in the interest of the people of their country… We believe in offering a helping hand to the parties and not in interference or intervention,” Browne continued.
He added that the Antigua and Barbuda government regards the news of López’s release from prison as a positive step, particularly in light of the offer of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government to play a mediating role if all the parties in Venezuela wish it.
López, 46, has been incarcerated since 2014, serving a nearly 14-year prison term after giving a speech during demonstrations against the government – a decision that sparked international outrage.
In 2015, the lead prosecutor in the Lopez case fled with his family to Miami, where he released a video claiming that the evidence used to convict López was fabricated.
In addition to health concerns, the Supreme Court president, Maikel Moreno, cited “serious indications of irregularities” in the case.
Moreno is one of eight justices on the Supreme Court who were hit by US sanctions in May, in retaliation for the court’s move to dissolve the National Assembly and take over legislative duties.