An opposition leader loses his appeal, as Cuba exerts more control.
Aug. 14, 2016 6:25 p.m. ET
A Venezuelan court on Friday upheld the conviction and 14-year prison
sentence for opposition leader Leopoldo López. Mr. López is jailed for
inciting violence during 2014 antigovernment street protests. But his
real crime is that he's a leader of the struggle to restore Venezuelan
democracy and has shown no fear in confronting strongman Nicólas Maduro.
Mr. López was never going to have a fair appeal. Hugo Chávez, a disciple
of Fidel Castro, corrupted Venezuelan institutions as part of his effort
to mimic Cuba's one-party state. Chávez died in 2013 but not before he
made the Venezuelan judiciary an extension of the executive.
Human-rights groups say the government now holds upwards of 60 political
The chavista-drafted 1999 constitution allows for a recall referendum on
Mr. Maduro this year. Hyperinflation, dire poverty, food and housing
shortages and soaring violence mean that if that vote were held this
year he would almost certainly be removed. That would trigger a new
election that his United Socialist Party of Venezuela would be unlikely
to win. His government is working hard to delay the vote until next
year, because then if Mr. Maduro loses, his vice president would take
over until the end of the term in 2019.
A recall vote this year is the only hope that Mr. López has of getting
out of jail. It's also the best hope Venezuela has of escaping the
increasing militarization of the government, which is now co-headed by
Castro admirer Gen. Vladimir Padrino. Cuba, which runs Venezuela's
intelligence and state security, opposes a referendum.
The Obama Administration hasn't done much for Mr. López and has
supported a "dialogue" between the government and opposition. But that's
playing along with the government's delay strategy. Cuba's contribution
to Venezuela's awful descent is more evidence that President Obama's
détente with Fidel and Raúl Castro has yielded nothing good for the
cause of freedom in the Americas.
Source: Venezuela's Descent - WSJ -