Venezuela Update: Rising Tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela

Above, Leopoldo Lopez

Above, Leopoldo Lopez

On Wednesday, February 15th, Donald Trump met with Lilian Tintori and Marco Rubio, sharing a picture on Twitter along with the statement “Venezuela should allow Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner & husband of @liliantintori (just met w/ @marcorubio) out of prison immediately.”

Leopoldo Lopez is one of the most popular Venezuelan politicians, an opposition leader who ran the political party Voluntad Popular and called people to peaceful protests in February of 2014, already three years ago. He was arrested several days afterwards under the charge of inciting violence and conspiracy, and was jailed and tortured in solitary confinement until his closed-door trial on September 10th of 2015. He was found guilty and sentenced to 13 years and 9 months of imprisonment.

Human rights advocates have criticized the arrest and sentence of Lopez for being entirely politically motivated and not rooted in fact, as the government is undeniably responsible for much of the violence that occurred at the 2014 February protests.

Now, even Trump has denounced it.

Tensions worsened even further after “CNN broadcasted a report on alleged passport fraud at the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq,” and Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Comission Conatel accused CNN of “defaming and distorting the truth.” Venezuela’s government has pulled CNN in Spanish from the nation’s airwaves, shutting off the news channel.

Venezuelan Presedent Nicolas Maduro called CNN an “instrument of war in the hands of real mafias,” and warned that Trump not make the same mistakes as the Obama administration in their condemnation of Lopez’s arrest.

Nonetheless, CNN Español is now offering their channel on YouTube to Venezuelans. The company came out with a statement claiming that “At CNN en Español we believe in the vital role that freedom of press plays in a healthy democracy.”

It seems that not only are the bad relations between U.S. and Venezuela getting worse, but the country seems to become more openly and shamelessly authoritarian with every move. Leopoldo Lopez will remain jailed, and measures taken to cut off people from journalistic truth will only get more drastic. The situation has reached such a dire point that even Trump’s reaction to it is a logical one.

by Daniela Flamini

Daniela Flamini