CARACAS – Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez warned in a video posted to Youtube on Wednesday that democracy in the country is being threatened with annihilation, as he called on citizens to continue joining street protests.
“Today in Venezuela we are facing a very clear threat ushered by Nicolas Maduro and those who accompany him with the Constituent Assembly initiative. This threat seeks two things, first the annihilation of the republic and the democratic state, and second the absolute submission of the Venezuelan people,” Lopez said in the video message.
Sentenced to almost 14 years in prison, Lopez was granted house arrest earlier this month, and his video message on Wednesday marks the first he has sent to the country after spending three and a half years in the Ramo Verde military prison near Caracas.
The leader of the Popular Will party said the National Constituent Assembly, which the Maduro government formed to rewrite the constitution, is intended to “annihilate” democracy, but that Venezuelans will prevent this through peaceful protests.
Members of the assembly will be elected in a national vote on Sunday.
Lopez argued that a peaceful “demonstration of struggle” was expressed through the July 16 unofficial referendum, in which more than 7.4 million Venezuelans opposed the Constituent Assembly and the “dismantling of the republic.”
He argued that those in a position of power should see the result of the opposition-organized referendum as an “order” from the people that needs to be fulfilled.
Once the will of the people expressed in the referendum is fulfilled, a channel for humanitarian aid should be opened immediately so that food and medicine can be delivered to the country, he added.
The opposition leader also called for the release of all political prisoners and a concrete electoral calendar for governors and the president of the republic.
He urged the military to cooperate by stopping support for Sunday’s election so the Constituent Assembly cannot be established.
He asked people to support the 48-hour general strike called by the opposition on Wednesday and Thursday, and the “big” march on Friday.
Lopez concluded by saying that although his video message may pose risks to himself, he does not fear returning to his cell.
“Today being at the front of this fight or actively participating in it has risks that we must all be willing to assume,” he said.