After more than a month without news of her husband and fears for his health, Venezuelan opposition leader Lilian Tintori has finally been allowed by the government of President Nicolás Maduro to visit Leopoldo López in prison.
“Leopoldo is fine, but in isolation. He resists in that condition,” tweeted Tintori on Sunday after a visit with other family members to the Ramo Verde military prison outside the capital Caracas, where he has been serving a 14-year jail term since February 2014.
The government of President Maduro has been playing a cat-and-mouse game with Tintori over visits to her husband, frequently cancelling them at short notice. Concerns for the well-being of López were raised on Wednesday of last week when rumors began circulating on social networks that the opposition leader had been taken to the Caracas Military Hospital in poor health.
The opposition says it plans to continue its month-long street protests
This prompted the regime to post a video on Wednesday of López confirming that he was okay. Tintori said she didn’t accept the video as valid, claiming it had been edited. “They are always recording Leopoldo. Every time it happens he repeats that they don’t allow him visits. We challenge Diosdado Cabello [a senior figure in the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela] to show the full recording of that day,” said Tintori on Sunday.
The origins of the rumors about López’s health, which were echoed by US Republican senator Marco Rubio last week, were explained by Tintori. “He knew they wanted to do something to him, that they wanted to poison him. That’s why, in the video they showed, he sent a message to us all.” She added: “When we found out [about his supposed health problems], we made some calls to verify the information. This wouldn’t happen if he weren’t kept in solitary confinement. The only way to meet to find out what was going on was to go to the hospital. But they are not going to break us by spreading false rumors about his health.”
Tintori said she felt stronger after talking with her husband. López found out about the recent demonstrations and the people who have been killed during a month of anti-government protests.
Meanwhile, the death on Friday of an anti-government protestor has taken fatalities from a month of street protests to at least 37 as the opposition gears up for more demonstrations.
Also on Friday, in Zulia state a group destroyed a statue of late leader Hugo Chávez, the founder of the ruling party in Venezuela.
The opposition protests of the last month have typically begun peacefully but degenerated into violence when security forces block marchers and masked youths fight back. The government is accused of using groups of armed civilians known as colectivos to intimidate protesters.
The opposition, which wants new elections, is boycotting the government’s plants to rewrite the Constitution through the creation of a new assembly, saying it is a ploy to keep President Maduro in power by setting up a body with mechanisms to ensure a government majority.
English version by Nick Lyne.