I’m troubled by Kenyon’s response to Leopoldo López’s ’93 political activism and the general media assessment of his leadership. There are some facts about his policies that American media do not acknowledge. In short, I feel López is not the left-wing activist that the American media portrays him as. Rather, López represents Latin American right-wing politics at their most harmful.
Let me be clear: I am against his imprisonment. No one should be incarcerated for political expression. However, it is difficult to get accurate depictions of López’s agenda due to the fact that the U.S. media portrays him as a hero, as exemplified by a recent CNN article (“Leopoldo López, imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader, remains defiant”). This, and similar articles, present López as a human rights martyr when he actually represents Venezuela’s elite.
According to CounterPunch, a left-wing news magazine, López and his party, Voluntad Popular (VP), receive funding from the U.S. government so that he acts in favor of the U.S. in Venezuela. Roberto Lovato, a University of California-Berkeley scholar, explores how López’s movement aligns with U.S. policy. By aligning, VP receives funding from U.S. government institutions. Harnessing the power of Twitter, Facebook, etc. to garner the support of younger groups, specifically students, it was easy to construct a narrative associating the movement with left-wing politics, as with the Arab Spring.
VP is not the first example of corruption in López ’s career. The first party López was with, Primero Justicia, was funded through corrupt means. Funding came from the Cisneros Group media conglomerate — his parents’ employer — the National Endowment for Democracy, U.S. Agency for International Development, and other U.S. government institutions. According to CounterPunch, these funded Primero Justicia under the pretense that money was going to “civil society organizations,” which Primero Justicia is not. Presently, the Obama administration funds VP (about five million dollars more than the original $90 million since 2000).
Lopez’s leadership also focuses on the Venezuelan upperclass. A CounterPunch article, “The Class Conflict in Venezuela,” discusses the strikes in 2014 and reads, “Only in richer neighborhoods … was there evidence of a strike, by business owners (not workers). In the western and poorer parts of the city, everything was normal and people were doing Christmas shopping — images unseen in the U.S. media.”
To me, VP is another example of an opposition group in Venezuela attempting to oust a democratically-elected government. The U.S. plays a key role in the perception of VP, as the CounterPunch article “The Class Conflict in Venezuela” posits: “Washington has been more committed to ‘regime change’ in Venezuela than anywhere else in South America — not surprisingly, given that it is sitting on the largest oil reserve in the world.”
I truly believe there should be no political prisoners and that López should be freed. I guess, like most Kenyon students, I align with the “Free Leo López” campaign. Yet, I believe that as privileged students, we have the responsibility to educate ourselves as best we can before deciding to support a political movement.
Isabella Bird-Muñoz ’18 is undeclared from San Juan, Puerto Rico. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.