Antonio Ledezma

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Antonio Ledezma
Ledezma.jpg
3rd Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas
In office
1 December 2008 – 19 February 2015
Preceded by Juan Barreto
Succeeded by Helen Fernández
3rd Mayor of Libertador Municipality
In office
1995–2000
Preceded by Aristóbulo Istúriz
Succeeded by Freddy Bernal
Personal details
Born Antonio José Ledezma Díaz
(1955-05-01) 1 May 1955 (age 63)
San Juan de los Morros, Guárico, Venezuela
Political party Fearless People's Alliance
Spouse(s) Mitzy Capriles
Children Vanessa Ledezma, Victor Ledezma, Mitzy Ledezma y Antonietta Ledezma
Residence Caracas
Alma mater Universidad Santa María
Website https://www.facebook.com/antonioledezmave/

Antonio José Ledezma Díaz (born 1 May 1955)[1] is a Venezuelan lawyer, politician and former political prisoner. After unsuccessfully challenging for the leadership of Democratic Action in 1999, he founded a new party, the Fearless People's Alliance.[1]

Political history[edit]

After involvement in politics in his home state of Guárico in the 1970s for Democratic Action, he served two terms in the Venezuelan Chamber of Deputies (from 1984),[1] and was elected to the Venezuelan Senate in 1994.[1] He then served as mayor of the Libertador Municipality (1996–2000) of the Venezuelan Capital District, having been appointed governor of the now-defunct Federal District (1992–1993) by Carlos Andrés Pérez.[1]

Mayor of Caracas[edit]

In 2008, he challenged pro-Chavez PSUV/Fatherland for All candidate Aristobulo Isturiz in the 2008 Caracas mayoral election and won. Subsequent to his election, the Venezuelan National Assembly passed a Capital District Law on April 30, 2009 that transferred most functions, funding, and personnel of the Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas to a new Venezuelan Capital District (headed by Jacqueline Faría, an official directly appointed by Hugo Chavez) covering in particular the political centre of Caracas and the municipality of Libertador. A legal challenge was filed and a request was filed with the National Electoral Council to hold a referendum, but these did not stop the transfer. Opponents of Chavez described the move as a deliberate negation of the popular vote, while Chavez supporters described the political and budgetary reorganization as an "act of justice" for Libertador, the largest and poorest of the five municipalities making up Caracas.[2] Following the removal of such power, Ledezma began a hunger strike that drew international attention.[3]

Arrest[edit]

On February 19, 2015 he was detained by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service at his office in the EXA Tower in Caracas. In the operation, the security forces made warning shots to the air to disperse a crowd that was forming. He was then transported to SEBIN's headquarters in Plaza Venezuela. His lawyer declared that the charges for his detention were unknown.[4][5][6][7][8] The New York Times stated that Ledezma was arrested by the Venezuelan Government after accusations made by President Nicolás Maduro about an "American plot to overthrow the government" that he presented a week before Ledezma's arrest.[9] Ledezma mocked the accusations stating that the Venezuelan government was destabilizing itself through corruption.[3] The United States denied the accusations by President Maduro and stated that "Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent".[9] He was imprisoned in Ramo Verde military jail and two months later, he was sent back home for health reasons, where he has been placed under house arrest and unable to express himself publicly.[10]

Response to arrest[edit]

Demonstrations[edit]

Wall painting in Caracas demanding Ledezma's release.

Following the news of the arrest of Ledezma, his supporters quickly created protests and called the arrest a "kidnapping" and that the coup conspiracy was created for political purposes.[9] Hours after the news broke, hundreds of Ledezma supporters gathered in a Caracas plaza to denounce his arrest.[9] Protesters also gathered outside of the SEBIN headquarters.[5]

Human rights groups[edit]

Human rights groups quickly condemned Ledezma's arrest and the similarity of the case to Leopoldo López's arrest was noted by The New York Times.[9] Amnesty International condemned Ledezma's arrest calling it politically motivated, noting the similar cases of arrests made by the Venezuelan Government in what Amnesty International described as "silencing dissenting voices".[11] Human Rights Watch demanded his release with Human Rights Watch’s Americas division director, Jose Miguel Vivanco, stating that without evidence, Ledezma "faces another case of arbitrary detention of opponents in a country where there is no judicial independence".[9][12]

Trial[edit]

In March 2015, former socialist Prime Minister of Spain, Felipe González, agreed to take over the defense of Ledezma in his trial after Ledezma's family requested his assistance.[13]

Escape from house arrest[edit]

On November 17th, 2017, Ledezma slipped past guards and fled into Colombia. He departed the same day from El Dorado International Airport to Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport in Madrid, Spain. Upon landing he declared he would continue his fight of opposition to the Venezuelan Government and was reunited with his family.

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • 2010 – Finalist for the 2010 World Mayor prize.[14]
  • 2015 – National Endowment for Democracy awarded Ledezma its Democracy Award in May 2015.[15]
  • 2015 – Cádiz Cortes Ibero-American Freedom Prize was awarded "given the unblemished defense of freedom in your community and minimum requirements of the realization of human rights in the same, which has led them to be subject to public rebuke of their government, including the flagrant situation of imprisonment or the cutting of your minimal civil rights".[16]
  • 2016 Courage Award, Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, shared with Leopoldo Lopez, "for inspiring the world with their extraordinary courage in the defense of liberty and universal human rights."[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Stevens, Andrew (July 19, 2009). "Antonio Ledezma, Mayor of Caracas: Fighting to maintain cities' influence". City Mayors Foundation. Retrieved October 29, 2013. 
  2. ^ Jeremy Morgan. "Caracas Metromayor's 'Political Defenestration' All But Complete in Venezuela". Latin American Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  3. ^ a b "Opposition leaders in Venezuela call for rally to protest Caracas mayor arrest". Fox News. 20 February 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  4. ^ "Venezuela on the Brink". PrimePair. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Sabin, Lamiat (20 February 2015). "Mayor Antonio Ledezma arrested and dragged out of office 'like a dog' by police in Venezuela". The Independent. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  6. ^ "Sebin detuvo al alcalde Metropolitano Antonio Ledezma". El Universal. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  7. ^ "Sebin se lleva detenido al alcalde Antonio Ledezma". La Patilla. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  8. ^ "Detuvieron al alcalde Antonio Ledezma". El Nacional. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Gupta, Girish; Robles, Frances (20 February 2015). "Caracas Mayor Arrested on Sedition Accusation, Plunging Venezuela into New Crisis". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  10. ^ "Antonio Ledezma, alcalde de Caracas, cumplió dos años preso [Antonio Ledezma, mayor of Caracas, served two years in prison]". 19 February 2017. 
  11. ^ "Amnesty International deplores actions against Mayor Ledezma". El Universal. 20 February 2015. Archived from the original on 21 February 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  12. ^ Vyas, Kejal (19 February 2015). "Caracas Mayor Detained By State Agents Antonio Ledezma, fierce critic of President Nicolás Maduro, taken away by armed agents". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  13. ^ Prados, Luis (23 March 2015). "Felipe González defenderá a líderes opositores presos en Venezuela". El País. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ Riley Jacobsen, Jane. "Venezuelan Political Prisoners are winners of NED's 2015 Democracy Award". National Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  16. ^ "López, Ledezma y Machado galardonados con el Premio Libertad Cortes de Cádiz". El Nacional. 12 June 2015. Archived from the original on 14 June 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  17. ^ "Jailed Venezuelan Opposition Leaders Antonio Ledezma & Leopoldo Lopez Win 2016 Courage Award from 25 NGOs at Geneva Summit Held at UN". GenevaSummit.org. 
Preceded by
Juan Barreto
Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas
2008–2015
Succeeded by
Helen Fernández
Preceded by
Aristóbulo Istúriz
Mayor of Libertador Municipality
1995–2000
Succeeded by
Freddy Bernal
Preceded by
Virgilio Ávila Vivas
Governor of Federal District of Venezuela
1992–1993
Succeeded by
César Rodríguez