U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who has been pushing the Obama administration to impose targeted sanctions on individuals committing human rights violations in Venezuela, flagged the recent case of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López in a letter to the president.
López’s wife made a public plea to U.S. and international leaders this week, saying her husband had been jailed on trumped-up charges by what she called the weak and frightened regime of President Nicolas Maduro. Lilian Tintori spoke at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday.
López is the former mayor of Chacao, a part of greater Caracas. He was a rising star in the opposition ranks and seen as a presidential contender when he was banned from politics by late President Hugo Chávez in 2008. His arrest after a February protest was the beginning of wider crackdown on the opposition, and his trial is scheduled to continue this week.
Since February, Venezuelans protesting Maduro’s regime have been met with often-brutal state-sanctioned violence that’s resulted in deaths, detentions and torture, according to political leaders and human rights observers. U.S. politicians from both parties have urged the Obama administration to intervene more forcefully to help mitigate the violence, but the administration has taken a more cautious approach, saying it doesn’t want to make the situation worse.
In his letter to President Barack Obama on Thursday, Rubio wrote: “Sadly, Maduro's persecution of Mr. López is emblematic of his regime's methods to cling to power... For these blatant violations of basic human rights, not a single Venezuelan official has paid a price.”