Spanish – Leopoldo López is considered one of the main figures of the Venezuelan opposition. In 2014, he led the movement “La Salida” or “the exit” to remove the Maduro dictatorship from power and was one of the fiercest opponents, along with María Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma.
However, time passed, and with it, López’s radical stance towards the regime faded. His speech stopped being frontal, incisive, and energetic. His new interventions from Madrid were languid, tenuous, and restrained. It all shows the same pattern: “transition,” but with Chavismo on board.
After six years in prison, Leopoldo López now has no qualms about talking about or suggesting possible pacts with Chavismo. One of his last televised interventions confirms this. Today, the leader of Voluntad Popular (VP) assures that he “would have no problem” participating in elections against his enemy.
This electoral proposal is far from all the scenarios that even the interim government led by President Juan Guiadó has proposed. Guaidó obtained the support of 27 political parties of the opposition coalition through a unitary pact, whereby they refuse to participate in eventual elections with the Chavista machinery.
However, López’s discourse today has other shades, and its reading is worrying for those who listen to him now. He indulged in the possibility of accepting a conversation with politicians of the regime to accelerate the end of the dictatorship.
“Our approach is to promote an electoral process,” he said in an interview with Telemundo News.
“What remains to be seen is would be the scheme through which an election would take place. If there are elections in Venezuela and the condition is that Maduro participates as a candidate, I would say that I do not have any problem because he would be defeated 90 to 10,” he said.
Opening the window to Chavismo
During the interview, he showed his willingness to accommodate people from the regime, something that seemed to be unthinkable for López only six years before, when the call to the street was the only thing that was expressed in every speech, outcry, and press appearance.
The same Leopoldo López, who was devoted to a dramatic discourse and detached from the moderate opposition wing, who asked the Venezuelan people not to waver, was all alone in the videos of the time. Today, dressed in a suit and tie, he only asks to negotiate with those who locked him up and perhaps share a “seat” in a possible new government.
“Those who help to achieve this transition will obviously be part of a process of transition. Therefore, this is a very clear message to military, police, and political actors, who are part of the structure of the dictatorship, that they know they can contribute to the process of change,” he said.
Where is the opposition to 6-D?
He also referred to the upcoming parliamentary elections on December 6. On this subject, he explained that the opposition is “working on what the format will be” within the Constitution that will allow the extension of the mandate of interim President Juan Guaidó.
“The National Assembly (headed by Juan Guaidó) will continue, that is the approach that is being promoted. In January, there will be institutional continuity of the Assembly,” he added.
However, far from this discourse, the reality is different: the Venezuelan National Assembly is against the clock and must define the plan of actions to be executed in a scenario that appears cloudy for the parties that are united in the opposition coalition.
While Nicolás Maduro’s regime is paving the way for electoral fraud, the breaks in dissent between those who want to participate and those who still resist the idea, such as leader María Corina Machado, have ended up damaging the “monolithic force” that President Juan Guaidó initially sought.
On April 30, 2019, Leopoldo López evaded house arrest and appeared at the La Carlota military base in Caracas, inviting the military to rebel against Maduro and asked civilians to take to the streets.
López was accompanied by Juan Guiadó, but the effort did not bear fruit. It turned out to be a failure for both leaders, yet another one added to the record of the opposition leader.
“The main mistake we could have made was an overly optimistic attitude towards expectations,” he confessed during the interview.
He added that expectations of change were created “that were inflated for the Venezuelan people and also for the international community and that today, since the exit of the dictator has not materialized, this has evidently generated frustration.”
Links with Diosdado
Leopoldo López is just a few days away from his first month out of Venezuela. His departure has generated all kinds of skepticism among citizens -who trusted his words and those of his wife, Lilian Tintori – who believed he would never leave the country.
Regarding López’s departure from Venezuela, there are underlying claims of Maduro’s complicity in making it happen with the mediation of former Spanish Ambassador to Caracas, Jesús Silva.
It is also argued that the opponent was supported by the chains of command of Diosdado Cabello and Gustavo González (current director of Sebín).
“He was kept under electronic and human surveillance. The device was reinforced by Chavista groups. The logistics to get him out of there, financially and tactically, had to be robust,” argued Johan Obdola, Venezuelan security analyst, in an interview with El Tiempo.
Negotiations from Spain
Once in Spanish territory, López met with the president of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez.
The president did not receive López at La Moncloa, in his capacity as president of the Spanish government, but as secretary-general of the PSOE at the party’s headquarters. This gesture meant that Sánchez was trying to play down the importance of the meeting.
After that meeting, López gave a press conference where he expressed his intentions in the medium term.
“It is clear to me that with Nicolás Maduro, it is very difficult to be able to propose a negotiation… We are convinced that a transition will have to include people who have been in the power structure of the dictatorship.”
Given these words, the qualifiers and descriptions of impressions are simply not enough. The 180° turnaround in Leopoldo López’s speech is very palpable. His surrender is something perceived not only by the opposition but also by Chavismo, and perhaps there is some danger in this.
*This article was written in collaboration with the journalist Milagros Boyer.