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Venezuelan dissident Leopoldo López greets supporters on Saturday, July 8, 2017, at the entrance of his house in Caracas (Venezuela). Leopoldo López greeted from inside his residence in Caracas to which he arrived this morning after receiving a measure of house arrest that took him from the military prison in which he was held since February 2014, with a sentence of 14 years in prison. EFE/MIGUEL GUTIÉRREZ
Venezuelan dissident Leopoldo López greets supporters on Saturday, July 8, 2017, at the entrance of his house in Caracas (Venezuela). Leopoldo López greeted from inside his residence in Caracas to which he arrived this morning after receiving a measure…

Venezuela: Leopoldo López under house arrest

The Venezuelan opposition leader, Leopoldo López, was granted house arrest after spending three years in Ramo Verde prison.

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The Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice announced through its twitter account that Lopez had health problems and that he had been granted the transfer.

A press release, issued by the agency, extended the circumstances that led to the change of sentence: "The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice filed ex officio the case against the citizen Leopoldo López, because there were serious indications of irregularities on the distribution of the file to a Court of Execution, and on the basis of information received on the health situation of the political leader, the magistrate rapporteur Maikel Moreno, considered fit to grant a Humanitarian Measure, which became effective this same Friday, July 7".

In September 2015, the opposition leader was sentenced to more than 13 years of imprisonment on charges of "public instigation, association to commit a crime, and determinant of damages and fire", following the violence that took place in the social revolts of February 2014, which left a balance of 43 dead.

The release of Leopoldo López coincides with 100 days of peaceful demonstrations in the streets, whose police repression has had a balance of more than 90 deaths. The popular protest movement has been led by the opposition caucus, Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, which has made it very clear that the situation will not change until a humanitarian channel opens up (for access to food and medicine that is critically scarce in the country), the release of political prisoners (more than 400 according to the Venezuelan Penal Forum) and the call for immediate general elections.

According to Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, on Saturday, Lopez's move was "a news that is a product of national dialogue and the sustained efforts of the President of the Republic, Nicolás Maduro, to keep the peace", according to the national media El Universal.

The measures of dialogue would have been presented for some months by former Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero together with López's wife, Lilian Tintori and one of the government’s high leaders, Jorge Rodríguez, mayor of Libertador municipality (Caracas). At that time, Lopez refused to negotiate his freedom, unless the freedom of all political prisoners was negotiated, according to the BBC.

Faced with the speculation that the opposition would be negotiating a settlement with the government to suspend the fight in the streets - without having achieved a change in the government - people close to Lopez made public statements to eliminate any suspicion that he had agreed with the Government, throwing away 100 days of struggle and the lives of about 90 people.

"In Venezuela there is a process of very strong civil resistance, and people are on the streets and this doesn’t stop that fight that is taking place. Next Sunday there is a popular plebiscite against the government. The fact that this measure has taken place does not change Leopoldo López's conviction of struggle at all, "said Roberto Marrero, lawyer of the opposition leader.

In the same way, both Tintori and Freddy Guevara (deputy and opposition leader) communicated through social networks to clarify their positions on the protests and the measure granted to Leopoldo López.

Although Tintori thanked Zapatero and Rodríguez for collaborating with the process of obtaining at least the house arrest for her husband, she also stressed, "We haven’t quit."

According to the Venezuelan media El Nacional, Tintori said, "the measure of house arrest was taken unilaterally by the regime." In the same way, Deputy Guevara supported the statement: "I understand that these are difficult times and that we have suffered a lot, but if there is a Venezuelan that holds firm is Leopoldo. Because if he wanted to negotiate to be free and to leave the country, as they proposed, he would have done so."

Likewise, Guevara confirmed that the street actions would continue to take place on the eve of the popular consultation organized by the opposition, which aims to counteract the Constituent Assembly raised by the government.

While Lopez's "liberation" can be seen as an achievement of the 100-day protest, the statements of the top leaders of Maduro’s regime assume that the government's intention is a tacit negotiation that will end the demonstrations in the streets: "I hope this decision of the Supreme Court is understood and Mr. Leopoldo López will send a message of reconciliation and peace because the country wants peace," Maduro said in a televised act.

The consequences of Lopez's new situation will become evident in the coming days, when the tension in the country has increased pending the fraudulent Constituent Assembly raised by the government.

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