|Mayor of Chacao|
30 July 2000 – 9 December 2008
|Preceded by||Cornelio Popesco|
|Succeeded by||Emilio Graterón|
|National Coordinator of Voluntad Popular|
5 December 2009
29 April 1971 |
|Political party||Voluntad Popular|
|Children||Manuela López, Leopoldo Santiago López|
Leopoldo López Mendoza (born 29 April 1971 in Caracas) is a Venezuelan politician and economist. From 2000 until 2008, López was the mayor of the Chacao Municipality of Caracas. A 2006 Los Angeles Times article described López as leader of the opposition to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, as well as a social activist working for "grass-roots judicial reform". He is sanctioned in Venezuela and cannot run for public office until 2014; however the Inter-American Court of Human Rights sanctioned Chávez for violating the human rights of opposition candidates by disqualifying them from running for administrative reasons in 2010, the court reached a unanimous decision in favour of Lopez.
Personal and professional life and education
López was born in Caracas on 29 April 1971, the second of three brothers. He studied at the Colegio Santiago de León de Caracas. Between 1989 and 1993, he studied Sociology at Kenyon College in the U.S. state of Ohio. He subsequently attended Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government where he obtained a Master of Public Policy in 1996. In 2007, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Kenyon. In May 2007 he married Lilian Tintori, with whom he had a daughter in 2009.
López' mother, Antonieta Mendoza, is the daughter of Eduardo Mendoza Goiticoa, who was Secretary of Agriculture for two years during the democratic period from 1945 to 1948. Through her, López is the great-great-great-grandson of the country's first president, Cristóbal Mendoza. López is the great-great-grand nephew of Simón Bolívar. Bolivar's sister, Juana Bolivar, is Lopez's fourth grandmother making him one of Bolívar's few living relatives. His first cousin is Thor Halvorssen Mendoza.
López worked as an economic consultant to the Planning Vice-President in Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) between 1996 and 1999, and has served as a professor of Institutional Economy in the Economics Department at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello.
López cofounded the Primero Justicia political party. In 2007 he joined the political party Un Nuevo Tiempo. López was elected mayor of Chacao in 2000 with 51% of the vote, and re-elected in 2004, with 81%; the LA Times described him in 2006 as "immensely popular".
On 5 December 2009 in the state of Carabobo, López launched the party Movimiento Voluntad Popular. Voluntad Popular (English: Popular Will) aims to overcome poverty without concentrating more power or eliminating the rule of law.
Opposition leader: target of violence
The United States Department of State mentioned actions taken against López by the Venezuelan government in its 2005 annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices. In November 2005 López was suspended from future political activity after his term as mayor expires in 2008 over allegations of misuse of funds. According to the US State Department, the charges were part of "a strategy by the Chávez government to eliminate the political opposition". López said "his real offense is that he poses an electoral threat as he builds a social democratic alternative to the socialist, anti-American 'Bolivarian Revolution'."
According to the Los Angeles Times, Chávez critics say all government dissidents are being targeted, but "Lopez seems to be the object of a full-out campaign". His aunt was also a victim of violence in Venezuela, shot during a peaceful rally.
As a leader of the opposition, López says he has experienced several violent attacks: the Los Angeles Times wrote that he had been shot at and was held hostage in February 2006 by armed thugs at a university where he was speaking and that his bodyguard was shot while sitting in the passenger seat of the car where López normally sits. The Times continued that "the killing of his bodyguard was meant to send a message". According to Jackson Diehl, writing for the Washington Post, in June 2008, after López returned from a visit to Washington, D.C., he was detained and assaulted by the state intelligence service. A member of the Venezuelan National Guard, a military corp on command of Hugo Chávez presidency, denounced López as responsible for the aggression and presented a video as evidence.
López was among 400 Venezuelans barred from running in the November 2008 elections over alleged corruption; 80 percent of those barred belong to the opposition. The November elections were crucial for the Chávez administration; following Chávez's defeat at the polls in December 2007, López says the government banned them because it knew they could win. As the best-known banned politician, López contested the sanction, arguing that the right to hold elected office could only be rescinded in the wake of a civil or criminal trial. In June 2008, López made his case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, D.C.; in July, the Commission agreed to hear his case and noted that the two years that had elapsed since López filed a motion asking the Court to annul the ban constituted an "undue delay".
An April 2008 pool found that 52% of adults opposed the ban, and 51% thought it was politically motivated. The US State Department said the attempt to rule by decree was "worrisome"; Chávez responded saying that concerns were "overblown".
Although no individuals were convicted charges remained unproven, in August 2008, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal – dominated by Chávez appointees – found that the sanction of the Comptroller General was constitutional. According to the Wall Street Journal, six of the seven Supreme Court justices "are sympathetic to the president". BBC News called the list of individuals barred from office a "blacklist", noting that "there is little that Mr López and others can now do that will allow them to take part in November's polls". The Economist observed that López is the "main apparent target" of the "decision by the auditor-general to ban hundreds of candidates from standing in the state and municipal elections for alleged corruption, even though none has been convicted by the courts". The Wall Street Journal noted that the ban "has elicited comparisons to moves by Iran's government preventing opposition politicians from running in elections in that country" and singles López out as "a popular opposition politician who polls say would have a good chance at becoming the mayor of Caracas, one of the most important posts in the country".
The next day, López and others protested the ruling in a demonstration, until they were blocked in front of a government building. López led protesters on an unauthorized march through Caracas; riot police threw tear gas canisters into the crowd of about 1,000 marchers.
López filed a complaint with the Mercosur Human Rights Committee; the Mercosur parliament session was disrupted and the Committee was unable to reach conclusions because they couldn't meet with authorities in Venezuela. José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch "described political discrimination as a defining feature of Mr. Chávez's presidency", singling out López and the "measure that disqualifies candidates from running for public office because of legal claims against them".
Banning from public office
In 1998, while López was working for Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) and his mother was the company's manager of public affairs, it awarded a grant to the Primero Justicia Civil Association, an organization of which López was a member. (The political party, Movimiento Primero Justicia, emerged in 2000 as an offshoot of the civil association.) Because PDVSA forbids donations to employees or relatives of employees, both mother and son were sanctioned from running for public office. Jackson Diehl wrote in The Washington Post that "the charges against López, never tested in court, are a blatantly bogus concoction."
The Associated Press reported that the use of the charges to disqualify López "is a tactic critics say Chavez uses to put his opponents' political ambitions on indefinite hold." The Organization of American States cited the case against López as one of the "factors that contribute to the weakening of the rule of law and democracy in Venezuela." López challenged these claims by stating that none of those punished had been charged, prosecuted and found guilty through due process of law, in direct violation of treatises signed by the Venezuelan government and the Venezuelan constitution.
The government of Venezuela maintains that the sanctions were legal. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights published on 16 September 2011 a unanimous decision, ruling that Lopez "should be allowed to run for office", regardless of the previous ban imposed by the Chavez administration. The Carter Center equated Venezuela's Supreme Court decision to disregard the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' decision to the military courts of Alberto Fujimori: "We note with concern that to our knowledge, with the exception of the military courts rulings during the Fujimori regime, this is the only country in the hemisphere where the merits rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have been rejected by the Supreme Court in expressly declaring them non-binding and unenforceable."
The Associated Press called López "the man who is challenging President Hugo Chávez's grip on power." On 5 December 2009 in the Valencia forum in Carabobo, López launched Voluntad Popular. The Associated Press reported of the launch, "the mere fact that Lopez's efforts are resonating with ordinary Venezuelans shows that the democratic spirit still burns in the nation of 28 million." López said of the movement, "What we want is to build a new majority from the bottom up - not just through negotiations and agreements between elites. It's a longer road, but for us, it's the only road that gives us possibilities of winning."
López made repeated statements similar to, "We here do not talk about infrastructure, quality of training, staffing of schools; we Venezuelans want to send our children to quality schools, where they can not only learn Castilian or math, but also acquire values and be formed as wholly complete beings".
He made a call to create grassroots groups, similar to a PTA, or a popular net (red popular), in each school to ensure the quality of schools and the education received by children and youth. "A people´s net in each school."
López said, "... part of the solution is to have community organization and we can fix the situation of Venezuela only by promoting culture, sport and employment".
- Kenyon College Honoris Causa Doctorate Law 2007.
- Premio Transparencia 2008, to the most transparent city mayor of Venezuela, granted by the Venezuela branch of Transparency International
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- McDermott, Jeremy (21 November 2008). "Chavez accused of behaving like 'dictator' ahead of elections". The Daily Telegraph (London).
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- López, Leopoldo (5 October 2010). "Venezuela's elections: a building block to something bigger". Huffington Post. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "Schedule of Hearings, 140o Period of Sessions, October 2010". Organization of American States, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
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- "Honors day". Kenyon College, Office of the Provost. Retrieved 30 August 2007.
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- (Spanish) "Leopoldo López afirma que deben trabajar duro en las comunidades". informe21.com. 20 August 2009. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- (Spanish) "Leopoldo López llamó a crear una red popular por cada escuela"
- (Spanish) "Voluntad Popular cree que problema de inseguridad se puede solucionar". Secretaria General Iberoamerica. 20 August 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- (Spanish) "Premio Transparencia 2008 para Leopoldo López". noticias24. 6 October 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
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