Domingo, 13 de Octubre de 2019
Última actualización: 10:47 CEST

Cubazuela, Raúl and Leopoldo

A protest in the streets of Caracas. (DERECHOSLATINOAMERICA)

What does Leopoldo López's relapse from prison and placement under house arrest entail in Venezuela's current political situation?

It is important to keep in mind that his arrest, conviction and conditions of imprisonment in a military prison were all the result of orders issued by Raúl Castro, obeyed by the criminal elite who (mis)govern Venezuela on his behalf. This decision was too. The question, then, is: why was he released from prison now?

First, this does not represent a surrender of Cubazuela's totalitarian aims, or a departure from its decision to use force to impose it. Rather, it is a diversionary tactic, a retreat that the Cuban-Venezuelan leadership has been forced to beat in the face of ever more complicated circumstances. Leopoldo has not been fully released; they now have him at home, as a hostage, wearing an electronic shackle, until they see how this new manoeuver works out.

What are their hopes? Internally, to revive old wariness that might erode the current unity between opposition forces and confuse the public by issuing misinformation, claiming that López agreed to his release to appease the citizens.

This equation includes the intention to revive the understandable animosity of Leopoldo and some opposition groups towards prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who undoubtedly contributed to the conviction of López and many others. What better way to tarnish Ortega (now turned rebel) than to enlist ranks of the opposition, whose constitutional rights the prosecutor valiantly now seeks to protect, at this dramatic juncture.

Through this misleading leniency shown towards a political prisoner of López's fame, they also seek to gain potential supporters of the constituent assembly campaign.

Externally, the hope is to promote international demobilization by fomenting the false conclusion that the Government has righted its course and it is necessary to give it time to see how much more it might be willing to cede. And, of course, related to this line of disinformation, there is an attempt to revive the hapless pseudo-dialogue (blessed by Castro, Maduro and Pope Francisco) featuring former presidents Zapatero, Fernández, Torrijos and Samper.

To revive the credibility of the most discredited team in the history of conflict resolution, they have already started to propagate the claim —even among Leopoldo's relatives— that they are responsible for the temporary house arrest of the most famous political prisoner in the western hemisphere. "Releasing" prisoners as a public relations ploy is an old Castroist trick now being put into practice in Caracas.

What is not behind Leopoldo López's house arrest is —for the time being— Raul Castro's desire to negotiate a bilateral solution, with the US, to the Venezuelan crisis. Not because the old myth is true that "Havana never sacrifices principles, and much less under pressure." They have done it before. But Raúl Castro —for now— prefers to heed the old adage that "a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush." Giving up his mafia partners in Caracas would place the Castro family and its associates at greater risk, endangering not just its oil subsidies, but also the massive revenues it gets from its collaboration in criminal activities, and expose it to prosecution by the DEA and the Interpol. And it would not be very glamorous, ideologically, to those on the international Left that have supported them until today.

Venezuelans will win their freedom by internal struggle, and international pressure, not because Castro breaks with his friends at the Cartel of the Suns. And the Castroist regime will not remain loyal based on any principles. Rather, it just cannot do without those connections. Meanwhile, Leopoldo's departure from the Ramo Verde prison is a ratification of his original assertion: change for Venezuela will come from the grass roots.