Before this historical day gets rolling I though I should share the extent of my contacts, through this blog, with Leopoldo Lopez and Voluntad Popular.
The first time I saw Lopez was many years ago, during the massive protests of 2002-2003. He was young and the mayor of what in Venezuela is the closest to la-la-land and a bachelor and gently flirting with a few cute groupies after some march. Now he is a main leader about to make the ultimate sacrifice, the one that can make his career great or ruin him and maybe cost him his life. That is what I like in him, his capacity to grow, to lead from the front. Like all politicians he has his foibles, his weaknesses and has made his share of mistakes. But he went forward and tried to learn from them.
This opinion has been comforted through the years. It started when I was invited to talk to him when Voluntad Popular was barely a growing project until a few months ago when I toured the offices of Voluntad Popular. Lopez has talked to all, has listened to all. And then he made his mind. Some may say that he is stubborn, that he does as he pleases, that his ego is bloating. Maybe, but I can vouch personally of something, before he makes his mind he has talked to a lot of people.
Another quality he has is that labels do not matter much for him. I have never registered with Voluntad Popular, but I was allowed to speak my mind the few times we met. He listens to people because they have something to say, not because he wants something from them. Well, of course he wants your support, he is a politician! But the point is that he will listen to you no matter what, even if his mind is already made so at least he will know better how to let you down softly.
Lopez has charisma, but more than that. When you visit Voluntad Poplar you can sense the enthusiasm and the devotion of his people. This also means something. I am not of the groupie mind set but I can see that people at Voluntad Popular are not groupies, they are bright things in a project they believe in.
So today as Lopez prepares himself for the momentous trial I need to express my support and sympathy. I am not sure that his political strategy has been the right one in recent weeks. I have my misgivings. But then again I know he has fully decided to take the risks and assumed them; and for this I respect him and support him today. I just wish I could be in Caracas today to dress in white and walk along the supporters that will come from across all political lines. Which is a testimony by itself.