Kevin McCarthy - US Congressional Majority Whip
For many weeks now, tens of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets in protest.
The protestors, mostly students, are standing up for basic human freedoms, and do so by using their right to protest, which is a sacred right whether you live in Boston, Belarus, or Venezuela. The government of Venezuela has, however, chosen to respond to these peaceful protests with heavy-handed repression.
It is Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the opposition party, Voluntad Popular, who has called for nationwide peaceful demonstrations to address the problems facing the country. These problems include chronic food shortages, the highest inflation in the world and ongoing censorship of the media. Even the Oscars were not allowed to be broadcast this year – for the first time in Venezuelan history.
Since the start of the government repressions, more than 1,400 students have been arrested, and there have been over 40 confirmed cases of torture. Leopoldo Lopez himself has been arrested, and is still sitting in a Venezuelan military prison. His arrest has not, however, deterred him from urging the students to keep exercising their legal rights to peaceful protest and free speech, repeatedly emphasizing that they must do so without violence. President Maduro has blamed Lopez for the violence that has beset the country and ordered his arrest on charges of murder, arson and terrorism. To date, the government has presented no evidence of the charges against him and their legal case is falling apart.
Amnesty International said the charges against Lopez recall “politically motivated attempts to silence dissent.” Human Rights Watch says “the Venezuelan government has openly embraced the classic tactics of an authoritarian regime: jailing its opponents, muzzling the media and intimidating civil society.”
I support all Venezuelans who have chosen to peacefully and non-violently claim their right to self-determination and protest. I hope you will join me in asking them not to give up and not to become numb in the face of the violations and abuses committed against them. We who are fortunate enough to live in freedom must stand up to oppression and injustice and remind the Venezuelan people that they are on the right side of history.
Please show your support in whatever way you can: #SOSVenezuela