Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has openly called on the military to rebel, continuing a longstanding trend of right-wing coup mongering in the South American country aimed at forcing the government of President Nicolas Maduro out of office.
“To the soldiers who are on the streets today I want to send a very clear, calm message framed in our constitution,” Lopez said on a video published on his Twitter account. “You also have the right and duty to rebel, to rebel against orders that seek to repress the Venezuelan people. ”
Lopez recorded the video inside the Ramo Verde prison where he is imprisoned since 2015 for inciting violence in the street barricade protests,
known in Venezuela as “guarimbas,” in 2014 that led to the deaths of 43 people. He was sentenced to 13 years for his involvement in planning and promoting the violent blockades which injured hundreds and caused billions of dollars in damages to public buildings and infrastructure.
“Say no, say it is not your duty or even an order that you must comply with,” Lopez said.
In the video, whose date of recording is unknown, Lopez says that he has spent time with military members from “all hierarchies,” which he claims has allowed him to confirm that they “also want change.”
It’s not the first time Venezuelan opposition leaders have appeared to foment military uprising or call for a coup against the Maduro government. In October, opposition leader Henrique Capriles said that Maduro was “in disobedience of the constitution” and called on both the National Assembly and Armed Forces to “make a decision” and have people “respect the constitution.”
Lopez and his wife Lilian Tintori have been outspoken opponents of Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution launched by late President Hugo Chavez. He also participated in the attempted coup against Chavez in 2002, including being caught on video illegally detaining then Minister of Interior and Justice Ramon Rodriguez Chacin during the failed ouster.
Since her husband’s imprisonment, Tintori has embarked on an international campaign to smear the Maduro government, including meeting with figures such as U.S. President Donald Trump and right-wing politicians from Latin American countries.
Lopez’ Popular Will party boycotted the stalled dialogue process aimed at smoothing tensions between the government and opposition, despite some parts of the opposition agreeing to sit down for the talks.
The party has also rejected Maduro’s call for a National Constituent Assembly to rewrite the 1999 Constitution in the name of promoting dialogue, a move that critics say lays bare the opposition’s lackluster policy proposals aside from removing Maduro from office.