Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has publicly declared that he would consider the release of political opposition leader Leopoldo López if the United States released Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, as reported by several news agencies.
His statement was made while asked about the brief and informal conversation he had with US Vice President Joe Biden during their visit to Brasilia last week for the inauguration of Dilma Rouseff's new term as president of Brazil, Spanish-language newspaper El Mundo reported. Leopoldo López's wife, Lilian Tintori, rejected Maduro's statement on Twitter.
Maduro's remarks come on the heels of social media rumors that the release of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera may be around the corner. On December 24, Venezuelan news agency TeleSUR announced that negotiations were underway to release López Rivera, helped along by the Uruguayan government. There has been no follow-up on the story by any other news agency as of this writing, however. It should be noted that this is not the first time that president Maduro has advocated for Oscar López Rivera's release.
Meanwhile, activists working for López Rivera's release geared up to start the new year with a storm of social media activity on January 6, the day of López Rivera's 72nd birthday, with La Respuesta and the Boricua Human Rights Network calling on users to post messages urging the US government to free López Rivera on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and other social networking services. The goal was to share 100,000 messages related to López Rivera in one day.
López Rivera, 72, has been imprisoned for 33 years in the United States, where he is serving a 70-year sentence for charges of “seditious conspiracy” and “conspiracy to escape”. He is a fighter for the independence of Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States. Politicians, artists, and many people across different ideologies have united to ask US President Barack Obama to pardon López Rivera, who has been called the longest held political prisoner in the Western Hemisphere.
With the congressional midterm elections over, President Obama in his final term in office and the recent announcement that the governments of the United States and Cuba would work to reestablish diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of estrangement, Oscar López Rivera's release might very well happen soon.
For more Global Voices coverage on Oscar López Rivera, check out the following links: