Profile: Venezuela’s opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez
Friday, February 21, 2014
By Ilgin Karlidag and Izabela Kuczynska
ANKARA - The succession of Venezuela’s late president, Hugo Chavez, by his former foreign minister Nicolas Maduro, may indicate a continuation of Chavez’s 23-year-long legacy.
However, 42-year-old politician Leopoldo Lopez is threatening to defy Chavez`s legacy by calling for an end to Maduro’s rule -- at a time when the country is troubled by high inflation, a falling black-market currency value, and a short supply of food and medicines.
Born into one of Venezuela’s wealthiest families, 42-year-old Lopez received his further education at Harvard University in the U.S., where he graduated.
Lopez is part of Venezuela’s coalition of center-right opposition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), formed to unify against Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
Maduro, who narrowly won the 2012 elections, ordered Lopez’s arrest on Tuesday on the charges of inciting violence during the anti-government protests, during which six people have been killed so far.
Lopez turned himself in after several days as a fugitive from the government.
"May my imprisonment serve to wake the people up," Lopez said minutes before surrendering.
On Thursday, attorney Juan Carlos Gutierrez said that the prosecutors had dropped the most serious charges against Lopez -- of murder and terrorism -- but that he could still face up to 10 years in prison, if convicted of arson and conspiracy charges.
President Maduro is accusing Lopez of plotting a coup against his government while human rights organizations have accused the Venezuelan government of attempting to silence popular dissent in the country.
Lopez has also been accused by the Venezuelan government for taking part in the country’s 2002 coup, which saw the brief removal of President Chavez. The coup was backed by elite businessmen and military leaders, allegedly associated with U.S. powers.
Lopez came into the public eye when he was elected as mayor of Caracas`s wealthy Chacao district, a post he held from 2000 to 2008. He was stopped, however, from running for re-election in the 2008 polls for allegedly misusing public funds.
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