|Founded||5 December 2009|
|Political position||Centre to Centre-left|
|National affiliation||Coalition for Democratic Unity|
|Seats in the Latin American Parliament|
|Seats in the National Assembly|
|Governors of States of Venezuela|
|Politics of Venezuela
The party was formed in reaction to alleged infringements of individual freedom and human rights on the part of the socialist government of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. The party brings together Venezuelans of various backgrounds who consider “chavismo” oppressive and authoritarian. Popular Will identifies itself as “a pluralist and democratic movement” that is committed to “progress,” which it defines as the realization of “the social, economic, political, and human rights of every Venezuelan.”
The party’s “fundamental pillars” are progress, democracy, and social action.
- 1 History
- 2 2014 Venezuelan protests
- 3 Party platform
- 4 View of Maduro government
- 5 Mayors belonging to Popular Will
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Popular Will traces its roots to the Popular Networks (Redes Populares) formed in 2004 as a means of promoting social action and leadership. The year 2007 saw the formation of the so-called “2D” opposition movement, which considered the constitutional referendum called by Hugo Chávez an attempt to impose dictatorship on the country.
This was followed in 2009 by the formation of the Social Action (Accion Social) movement, which brought together “youths, workers, community leaders, business people, and politicians.”
On December 5, 2009, López, along with the other leaders of other political parties, Un Nuevo Tiempo, Primero Justicia, and Acción Democrática, officially announced the formation of the Popular Will Movement (Movimiento Voluntad Popular) at a forum in Valencia, Carabobo.
The National Electoral Council, on February 1, 2010, refused to allow the group to call itself Movimiento Voluntad Popular, supposedly because of the similarity between this name and that of the Movimiento Base Popular, a regional political party in Apure. This frustrated the party’s desire to field candidates in the 2010 parliamentary election; nonetheless, three party members won election to the National Assembly, two of them with the support of the Coalition for Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD).
On January 14, 2011, the National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral) formally accepted Popular Will as a legitimate political party. This was followed by an unprecedented event in Venezuelan political history, namely the choice of a party’s officials in open elections, which were held on July 10, 2011. Later, MUD candidates for presidence and state government offices were selected in primaries that took place on February 12, 2012. Leopoldo López had retired himself and supported Henrique Capriles Radonski who was elected as the MUD candidate for presidential election of October 7, 2012. Hugo Chávez was reelected as president and the party received 471,677 votes. In the regional elections on December 16, 2012, the party was established as the fourth largest party in MUD coalition and as the sixth nationwide. The youth leader, David Smolansky Urosa, won the 2013 municipal election for mayor of the municipality of El Hatillo in Miranda State.
2014 Venezuelan protests
The Popular Will Party played a central role in the protests that took place in Venezuela in early 2014. López was blamed by the government of president Nicolas Maduro for three deaths that occurred during protests on February 12, and the next day a Caracas court upheld a request from the Public Prosecutor’s Office to order his arrest. “Without a doubt, the violence was created by small groups coordinated, exalted and financed by Leopoldo López,” said Jorge Rodriguez, the Socialist Party mayor of the Libertador municipality in Caracas.
“The government is playing the violence card, and not for the first time,” López claimed. “They're blaming me without any proof....I have a clear conscience because we called for peace.” He added: “We won't retreat and we can't retreat because this is about our future, about our children, about millions of people.” On February 16, López announced he would turn himself in to the Venezuelan government after one more protest. “I haven't committed any crime,” he said. ”If there is a decision to legally throw me in jail I'll submit myself to this persecution.”
Break-in, February 17, 2014
On February 17, 2014, “alleged members of military counterintelligence” broke into the headquarters of Popular Will without a search warrant and holding people at gunpoint. In videotapes of the incident that were later made public, armed men are seen threatening people in one room of the headquarters and violently breaking down a door in order to enter another room. Carlos Vecchio, the party’s national political coordinator, reported the incident via Twitter. López, in his own tweet, urged his followers to spread the word about the incident.
Arrest of López
On February 18, López delivered a speech in Plaza Brión calling for “a pacific exit” from authoritarian government, “within the constitution but in the streets.” He lamented the loss of independent media in the country and declared that if his imprisonment helped Venezuelans to wake up once and for all and demand change, it would have been worth it. He said he could have left the country, but instead had “stayed to fight for the oppressed people in Venezuela.” He thereupon turned himself in to the National Guard, saying that he was handing himself over to a “corrupt justice” system. On February 20, Supervisory Judge Ralenis Tovar Guillén, issued a pre-trial detention order against López in response to formal charges of “arson of a public building,” “damages to public property,” “instigation to commit a crime,” and “associating for organized crime.”
Reactions by human-rights organizations
Human-rights organizations around the world condemned the arrest of López, with Amnesty International, in a February 19 statement, calling it “a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent” and Human Rights Watch accusing the Venezuelan government of adopting “the classic tactics of an authoritarian regime.” The New York-based Human Rights Foundation declared López a prisoner of conscience on February 20 and called for his immediate release, adding: “Either Maduro releases López and calls for an honest dialogue with all of the opposition, or he must step down for the sake of all Venezuelans: both those who support chavismo and those who do not. Venezuela does not need an executioner willing to kill half of the country. Venezuela needs a president.”
Arrest warrant for Vecchio
The next day, the government issued an arrest warrant for Carlos Vecchio, who with López in jail was serving as the de facto leader of Popular Will. He was charged with the same offenses as López: arson, criminal association, damages to public property, and instigation to commit a crime. Vecchio, who was in hiding, defied the arrest order. Meanwhile public unrest continued, with the official death toll from more than two weeks of violence rising to 17. Enrique Betancourt, writing in the Yale Daily News, described Vecchio, a 2013 Yale World Fellow, as a champion of freedom who, unlike López, “is not an internationally recognizable figure (yet).” Betancourt expressed the concern that this “relative anonymity will allow government forces to arrest Carlos and violate his human rights with impunity and without fear of any international repercussion.” On March 22, as street protests continued, Vecchio, still defying the arrest order, addressed a crowd of supporters in Caracas.
Attack on protesters
In early March 2014, a peaceful protest march in Caracas, organized by the Student Movement (Movimiento Estudiantil) and supported by Popular Will, was dispersed by members of the National Guard (GNB) and National Police (PNB) using tear gas and gunshots. This action prevented the marchers from reaching the headquarters of the national Ombudsman, where they planned to demand the resignation of Gabriela Ramirez for justifying acts of torture and other violations of human rights committed by the government of Nicolás Maduro. At this point López had been in prison for 22 days. Popular Will, in response to this action, stated that Maduro, “in addition to being illegitimate, is a murderer.” Party official Freddy Guevara emphasized that Popular Will believed in a peaceful and constitutional transfer of power, and called on the Venezuelan people to maintain pressure on the government to provide justice and freedom, saying that “the power of the street” must be used “to force the government to uphold the constitution.” He added. “We cannot rest until Leopoldo López is free.”
New York Times op-ed
On March 26, 2014, the New York Times published an op-ed by Lopez under the headline “Venezuela’s Failing State.” Writing, as he explained, “from the Ramo Verde military prison outside Caracas,” Lopez lamented that for the past fifteen years, “the definition of ‘intolerable’ in this country has declined by degrees until, to our dismay, we found ourselves with one of the highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere, a 57 percent inflation rate and a scarcity of basic goods unprecedented outside of wartime.” This economic devastation, he added, “is matched by an equally oppressive political climate. Since student protests began on Feb. 4, more than 1,500 protesters have been detained, more than 30 have been killed, and more than 50 people have reported that they were tortured while in police custody,” thus exposing “the depth of this government's criminalization of dissent.” Addressing his incarceration, Lopez recounted that on February 12, he had “urged Venezuelans to exercise their legal rights to protest and free speech – but to do so peacefully and without violence. Three people were shot and killed that day. An analysis of video by the news organization Últimas Noticias determined that shots were fired from the direction of plainclothes military troops.” Yet after the protest, “President Nicolás Maduro personally ordered my arrest on charges of murder, arson and terrorism….To this day, no evidence of any kind has been presented.”
Lopez explained that he was not alone in being imprisoned for political reasons. The previous week, the government had arrested the mayors of both San Cristóbal and San Diego. While some observers “believe that speaking out only antagonizes the ruling party -- inviting Mr. Maduro to move more quickly to strip away rights -- and provides a convenient distraction from the economic and social ruin that is taking place,” Lopez argued that “this path is akin to a victim of abuse remaining silent for fear of inviting more punishment.” Moreover, “millions of Venezuelans do not have the luxury of playing the ‘long game,’ of waiting for change that never comes.” Therefore, it is important “to speak, act and protest,” and not “to become deadened to the steady abuse of rights that is taking place.” Lopez called for justice for Maduro’s victims, for the disarming of paramilitary groups, for “an investigation into fraud committed through our commission for currency exchange,” and for “real engagement from the international community, particularly in Latin America.” He charged that while international human-rights organizations had been outspoken in condemning Maduro, many of Venezuela’s neighbors had responded to his actions with “shameful silence,” as had the Organization of American States, which represents nations in the Western Hemisphere.
The party platform, “The Best Venezuela” (La Mejor Venezuela), calls for an open, transparent government and for the punishment of abuses of power by public officials. It supports globalization and calls for an inclusive society “without regard to wealth, religion, age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or political opinions.” López, when running for president, called for greater autonomy in fiscal matters to be given to governors and mayors.
The party seeks to make Venezuela the world’s largest producer and exporter of oil. López does not seek to nationalize oil firms but says that oil income should be used to form a “Solidarity Fund” to help alleviate extreme poverty and finance an efficient system of social security, as well as to diversify the non-oil sectors of the nation’s economy. López also opposes price controls and favors subsidizing domestic production. He supports the market economy and opposes “state capitalism.”
The party’s “real battle,” López has claimed, is “against poverty, exclusion, and disrespect for human rights.” In opinion pieces in December 2013 and January 2014, he proposed the creation of a “Social Forum” within the context of which Venezuelans could “discuss and rethink” the country’s future and forge a “new social pact.” López expressed the view “that mineral resources are owned by the nation” and that “democratizing oil” can lead to a democratization of income. He also encouraged Venezuelans to invest in the oil business in order to “participate in its production.” In the January article, López described Popular Will as a grassroots “social and political” movement that “avoids the harmful practices of old and new political parties” and that is opposed to “warlordism and cronyism in the selection of its authorities.” He added that Popular Will does “not share the vision of a hegemonic state that controls everything and decides everything”; rather, government’s role is to promote the development of human capabilities, to help people flourish as free citizens, to cultivate “social solidarity,” and to foster “respect for the constitution.”
In order to forge “the best Venezuela,” López has written, Venezuelans must focus on “peace, welfare, and progress,” and must engage in “a broad process of consultation and reflection…with groups of experts in specific subject areas and with social movements, as well as with communities, in dialogues in which we can feel the needs and cries of Venezuelans.” He has expressed confidence that Venezuelans “can construct a country in which the problems that have never been solved can be solved, the eternal problems that exist from generation to generation.” López has further spoken of creating a Venezuela “where liberty is exercised in a constructive and responsible manner,...and where opportunities are created for all Venezuelans, regardless of wealth, religion, age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or political persuasion.”
López has said that Venezuela must commit itself to strengthening production and bringing down inflation, which, he said, would reduce corruption and enable Venezuelans to save money. He has held up the examples of Brazil, Peru, Argentina, and Colombia as countries “that had hyperinflation and achieved price stability.” He criticized price controls, saying that Venezuela, while having “a number of controls,” also had “the continent's highest inflation.”
López has described his foreign policy as “win-win” policy, the objective of which would be to solve the country’s problems and to promote peace, welfare, and progress. He has said that he would curb the “ideologized” foreign policy of the current government. López has also expressed belief in a multipolar world in which Venezuela would play a role as an international champion of democracy and human rights.
View of Maduro government
The party’s manifesto states: “This is an infamous epoch because the laws are used to create injustice; it is a disastrous epoch because the laws are used to subdue, frighten and eliminate the people who protest and who demand justice.”
In January 2012, López, at the time a presidential candidate, described the current Venezuelan government as authoritarian, and called on Venezuelans to join him in choosing “the path of democracy.” He said that the “first commitment” of government must be to justice, specifically to “functioning courts,” an end to impunity, and an end to corrupt tax authorities.
Mayors belonging to Popular Will
- Fabio José Canache (Píritu, Anzoátegui)
- Lumay Barreto (Páez, Apure)
- Delson Guarate (Mario Briceño Iragorry, Aragua)
- José Gregorio “Gollo” Martínez (Piar, Bolívar)
- Yovanny Salazar (Chaguaramas, Guárico)
- Álvaro Sánchez (Rangel, Mérida)
- David Smolansky (El Hatillo, Miranda)
- Warner Jiménez (Maturín, Monagas)
- Luis Daniel “Sañelo” Cabeza (Bolívar/Marigüitar, Sucre)
- Patricia de Ceballos (San Cristóbal, Táchira)
- Alberto Maldonado (Torbes, Táchira)
- Alejandro “Tato” García (Ureña, Táchira)
- William Galavis (Guásimos, Táchira)
- José Karkom (Valera, Trujillo)
- José Acisclo Viloria (Miranda, Trujillo)
- Romero, Simon; Díaz, María Eugenia (21 October 2011), "A Bolívar Ready to Fight Against the Bolivarian State", The New York Times
- "Quienes Somo?". Voluntad Popular.
- Manifiesto de Voluntad Popular (Spanish, visited September 21, 2010)
- Dirigentes opositores lanzan movimiento Voluntad Popular en Carabobo (Spanish, visited December 05, 2009)
- Negado en el CNE conformación del Movimiento Voluntad Popular dirigido por Leopoldo López (Spanish, visited February 11, 2010)
- Leopoldo López anunció que Voluntad Popular es ahora un partido político (Spanish, visited January 18, 2011)
- Cawthorne, Andrew (Feb 13, 2014). "Venezuela seeks protest leader's arrest after unrest kills three". Reuters.
- Gupta, Girish. "Venezuelan opposition leader says he'll turn himself in". USA Today.
- "Difunden imágenes de allanamiento ilegal en sede del partido Voluntad Popular, de Leopoldo López". La Republica. Feb 17, 2014.
- "Venezuela HRF declares Leopoldo Lopez a Prisoner of Conscience and calls for his immediate release". Human Rights Foundation.
- "Venezuela: Trial of opposition leader an affront to justice and free assembly". Amnesty USA.
- Wilson, Peter (Feb 26, 2014). "Women in white protest violence in Venezuela". USA Today.
- Mogollan, Mary, & Chris Kraul (Feb 28, 2014). "Venezuela seeks opposition figure's arrest; protest death toll rises". LA Times.
- "Voluntad Popular llama a no retroceder en la protesta pacífica". El Universal. Mar 12, 2014.
- Lopez, Leopoldo (Mar 25, 2014). "Venezuela’s Failing State". New York Times.
- "Leopoldo López: nuestra política exterior será impulsar la exportación "made in Venezuela"". Noticias 24.
- Rodriguez, Mariana Martinez (Nov 23, 2011). "Entrevista: Leopoldo López: "Levantaremos el control de cambio lo más rápido posible"". El Mundo.
- Gomez, Elvia (Jan 18, 2014). "López ratifica invitación a crear Foro Socialdemócrata". El Universal.
- http://www.voluntadpopular.com (Spanish)