President Donald Trump called on the Venezuelan government to release opposition leader and political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez. In a February 15 tweet, President Trump said: "Venezuela should allow Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner [and] husband of Lilian Tintori out of prison immediately."
Ms. Tintori thanked President Trump, in a series of tweets, for “standing with the Venezuelan people [and] our aspirations to restore democracy to our country.”
Lopez was sentenced in 2015 to nearly 14 years in prison on a series of specious charges including arson, inciting damage to a building, instigation to commit crimes, and belonging to an organized crime group during anti-government protests in 2014. Lopez has been a leader of the opposition to Venezuela's socialist government and founded the Popular Will party. Lopez's trial and sentence were condemned by the United States as well as the United Nations. The Venezuelan Supreme Court denied his appeals on February 16.
The Venezuelan government continues to arrest and imprison citizens from across Venezuelan society for their political beliefs. Currently, more than 100 such individuals are in prison. These include: Leopoldo Lopez, who completed his third year in prison February 18; Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, who completed his second year under house arrest February 19; former Mayor Daniel Ceballos; and many other students, activists, journalists, and peaceful protestors.
The United States condemns these arrests and other actions taken by the Venezuelan government to criminalize dissent and deny its citizens the benefits of democracy.
Acting U.S. State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said, "We call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience, respect for the rule of law, the freedom of the press, the separation of constitutional powers within the government, and the restoration of a democratic process that reflects the will of the Venezuelan people."