Father of Leopoldo Lopez ’89, Speaks of Venezuela’s Chaos and his Son’s Imprisonment at Ours to Change Dinner
Mr. Leopoldo Lopez ’63, the father of Leopoldo Lopez ‘89, came to The Hun School recently to ask the community to keep in mind the turmoil in his native Venezuela and his son, who has languished as a political prisoner there since 2014. He was the keynote speaker at the Ours to change Benefit Dinner on May 17th, an annual student-led fundraiser to support education in Venezuela. He also spoke to a student assembly and in history classes, where global engagement is frequently part of the curriculum.
The younger Mr. Lopez (learn more at freeleopoldo.com) is a political opposition leader who was arrested by President Nicolas Maduro’s regime in 2014. He was accused of inciting violence during anti-government protests and sentenced to fourteen years in a military prison. He is one of more than 180 political prisoners held there. Both former President Obama and President Trump have asked for his release.
At Hun, the elder Mr. Lopez described the chaos in his country. There are food and fuel shortages, spiraling inflation, and massive protests. Close to 3,000 people have been detained, and more than 60 people have been killed during the unrest, which escalated this spring.
Mr. Lopez advised his Hun School audience to guard the tenets of democracy carefully.
“Pay attention to a populist who gets into power and changes the rules of the game, who disrespects the institutions of a country and its constitution,” said Mr. Lopez. Earlier this year, President Maduro ordered Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which is friendly to him, to strip the Venezuelan National Assembly of its power. That move was walked back on April 1 due to public outcry, but months of rioting have followed.
The elder Mr. Lopez said the Hun community could help by calling their senators and congress members and encouraging sanctions against the Venezuelan regime (U.S. Senate Bill 1018 would impose such sanctions) until human rights are restored. Mr. Lopez was asked about his hopes and fears in the current situation.
“My fears, I will not express them,” he said with tears in his eyes. “My hope is that Venezuela will be the country that it should be, that people will not return to their homes and allow tyranny to triumph.”
The Hun School of Princeton is an independent, coeducational, private day and boarding college preparatory school. Student-centered, hands-on learning prepares students for the global community in which they will live and work.