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Leopoldo Lopez Mendoza (born 29 April 1971 in Caracas) is a Venezuelan politician and economist. From 2000 until 2008, Lopez was the mayor of the Chacao Municipality of Caracas. A Los Angeles Times article describes Lopez as an immensely popular leader of the opposition to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as well as a social activist working for "grass-roots judicial reform".
A Caracas newspaper, El Nacional, named Lopez 2003 Person of the Year, describing him as one of the most notable leaders of the opposition to Chavez and as the best mayor of the metropolitan area of Caracas.
Personal life and education
Lopez was born in Caracas on 29 April 1971, the second of three brothers. Lopez spent his early years studying at the Colegio Santiago de Leon de Caracas. Between 1989 and 1993, he studied Economics at Kenyon College in the U.S. state of Ohio. He subsequently attended Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government where he obtained a Master of Public Policy in 1996. In 2007, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from his Alma Mater, Kenyon College. In May 2007 he married Lilian Tintori, with whom he had a daughter on 20 September 2009 named Manuela Lopez.
Lopez' mother, Antonieta Mendoza, is the daughter of Eduardo Mendoza Goiticoa, who is the great-grandson of the countrys first president Cristobal Mendoza and descended from the same family of Bolivar himself. More specifically, Leopoldo Lopez is the great-great-great-great-nephew of Simon Bolivar.
Professional and political life
Lopez worked as an economic consultant to the Planning Vice-President in Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) between 1996 and 1999, and has served as a professor of Institutional Economy in the Economics Department at Universidad Catolica Andres Bello.
Lopez cofounded the Primero Justicia political party. In 2007 he joined Un Nuevo Tiempo, the most popular party among Venezuela's opposition.
Lopez was elected mayor of Chacao in 2000 with 51% of the vote, and re-elected in 2004, gaining 81% of the vote; the LA Times describes him as "immensely popular".
Opposition leader: target of violence
The United States Department of State mentioned actions taken against Lopez by the Venezuelan government in its 2005 annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices. Lopez was suspended in November 2005 from political activity after his term as mayor expires in 2008 because of allegations of misuse of funds; according to the US State Department, the charges were part of "a strategy by the Chavez government to eliminate the political opposition". According to the Los Angeles Times, Lopez says "his real offense is that he poses an electoral threat as he builds a social democratic alternative to the socialist, anti-American 'Bolivarian Revolution'." According to the Times article, Chavez critics say all government dissidents are being targeted, but "Lopez seems to be the object of a full-out campaign". His aunt was also a victim of violence in Venezuela, shot during a peaceful rally.
As a leader of the Chavez opposition, Lopez says he has experienced several violent attacks: the Los Angeles Times says he has been shot at and was held hostage in February 2006 by armed thugs at a university where he was speaking and his bodyguard was shot while sitting in the passenger seat of the car where Lopez normally sits. According to the LA Times "the killing of his bodyguard was meant to send a message". According to Jackson Diehl, writing for the Washington Post, in June 2008, after Lopez returned from a visit to Washington, D.C., he was detained and assaulted by the state intelligence service. A member of the Venezuelan National Guard denounced Lopez as responsible for the aggression and presented a video as evidence.
Lopez is among 400 Venezuelans barred by the Venezuelan government from running in the November 2008 elections due to being under investigation for alleged corruption; 80 percent of those barred belong to the opposition. The November elections are crucial for the Chavez administration to remain in control; following Chavez's defeat at the polls in December 2007, Lopez says the government banned them because it knows they can win. As the best known politician on the list, Lopez is contesting the sanction, arguing that the right to hold elected office can only be rescinded in the wake of a civil or criminal trial. In June 2008, Lopez made his case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, D.C.; in July, the Commission agreed to hear his case and noted that the two years that have elapsed since Lopez filed a motion asking the Court to annul the ban constitutes an "undue delay". A poll in April 2008 found that 52% of adults opposed the ban, and 51% thought it was politically motivated. The US State Department said the attempt to rule by decree was "worrisome"; Chavez responded saying that concerns were "overblown".
Although no individuals have been convicted of any crimes and charges remain unproven, in August 2008, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunaldominated by Chavez appointeesfound that the sanction of the Comptroller General was constitutional. According to the Wall Street Journal, six of the seven Supreme Court justices "are sympathetic to the president". BBC News called the list of individuals barred from office a "blacklist," noting that "there is little that Mr Lopez and others can now do that will allow them to take part in November's polls". The Economist observed that Lopez is the "main apparent target" of the "decision by the auditor-general to ban hundreds of candidates from standing in the state and municipal elections for alleged corruption, even though none has been convicted by the courts". The Wall Street Journal noted that the ban "has elicited comparisons to moves by Iran's government preventing opposition politicians from running in elections in that country" and singles Lopez out as "a popular opposition politician who polls say would have a good chance at becoming the mayor of Caracas, one of the most important posts in the country".
The next day, Lopez and others protested the ruling in a demonstration, until they were blocked in front of a government building. Lopez led protesters on the unauthorized march through Caracas; riot police threw tear gas canisters into the crowd of about 1,000 marchers, protesting Chavez's concentration of power. Lopez filed a complaint with the Mercosur Human Rights Committee; the Mercosur parliament session was disrupted and the Committee was unable to reach conclusions because they couldn't meet with authorities in Venezuela. Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch "described political discrimination as a defining feature of Mr. Chavezs presidency", singling out Lopez and the "measure that disqualifies candidates from running for public office because of legal claims against them".
Conflict of interest
In 1998, while Lopez was working for Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) and his mother was the company's manager of public affairs, the company awarded a grant to the Primero Justicia Civil Association, an organization of which Lopez was a member. Because PDVSA forbids donations to employees or relatives of employees, both mother and son were sanctioned from running for public office. Leopoldo Lopez challenged these claims by stating that none of those punished had been charged, prosecuted, and found guilty through due processes of law, in direct violation of the Human Rights treatises signed by the Venezuelan government and the Venezuelan constitution. The government of Venezuela maintains that the sanctions were legal.
City Mayors' profile of Leopoldo Lopez
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