Leopoldo Lopez: Maduro remains in power with support of enemies of US

Washington, Mar 28 (EFE).- Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been in exile since 2020, on Tuesday said that his country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, remains in power with the support of “enemies” of the United States, and he demanded greater support for the democratic forces in Venezuela, in particular from Washington.

There is no way to win the fight for democracy and freedom if the US doesn’t ot lead it, he said before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Democratic lawmaker Bob Menendez.

Lopez, who lives in Spain, emphasized at the committee session that Maduro, in his judgment, is not in power due to the support of the military, the natural resources wealth of the country or because the Venezuelan opposition is fragmented.

The true reason that Maduro remains in power is the international support he receives from enemies of the US, he said, naming Russia, China, Iran, Belarus and Cuba. Maduro is clearly part of an autocratic network, he added, that is aligned to protect itself by diplomatically defending itself, the politician and economist added.

Any cooperation the Venezuelan government receives, he said, is of concern because Maduro and his regime are a “criminal structure” that is linked not only to the autocracies of the world but also to criminal groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), also in Colombia, the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel and Russia’s Wagner Group, a mercenary army.

Sharing intelligence information, providing stability to Maduro and even whitewashing what Maduro means diplomatically and presenting him as Venezuela’s legitimate leader is a “big mistake,” said Lopez, who last November launched the World Congress for Freedom to gather activists and movements from more than 40 nations to “keep the struggle and the hope alive.”

Democracy, he said at the Senate hearing, must be fought for, noting that the world needs to make visible the situation of political prisoners and transnational repression, along with increasing the cost to Venezuela’s regime for continuing to hold political prisoners.

The session focused on US support for democracy and human rights, and also heard from the leader of the Belarusian opposition, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and from the president of the National Endowment for Democracy non-governmental organization, Damon Wilson.

Lopez, a member of the Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank, said that massive, free and unfettered access to the Internet must be fostered to be able to combat disinformation and to make it possible for people to mobilize.

And he also demanded “rethinking sanctions,” saying that they are not a “panacea, but rather “a means to an end.”

The crisis in Venezuela, he emphasized, is not the result of sanctions, but rather is due to poor management and corruption, and thus he urged that sanctions not focus only on government officials but also on all those people and companies who are behind that “kleptocratic network of corruption” and who provide support for the dictatorship.

The Venezuelan politico added that the private sector also should be part of the conversation for greater rights, adding in a specific reference to the US that bipartisan support is not the only thing that is needed. That support, he said, must have the cooperation of all branches of the US government.

Lopez said that the process of negotiations in Mexico between the Venezuelan government and the opposition grouped under the Plataforma Unitaria has stagnated because Maduro does not have any intention of moving forward on the talks, and the only way to end the “humanitarian tragedy” in Venezuela is “through political change.”

EFE –/bp

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