This morning finally Leopoldo Lopez, reported not being able to stand up anymore, has let it be known that he ended his hunger strike and asked that others end their own as well. Too many are heralding the calling for elections a great victory for Lopez, but I beg to differ. A victory it is but it lays elsewhere, associated to Leopoldo Lopez, make no mistake.
Let's look at the "electoral victory" first.
One of the petitions of the hunger strike was for the regime to set once and for all an election date. This should have been done long ago and it was clear that the regime was delaying it. The reasons were many, from picking the date that would favor its interest best, to give them time to organize an internationally palatable electoral fraud, to find an excuse not to call an election. That a date is set is a set back for the regime. But again, make no mistake, in the next 5 months many things may still happen to sabotage the election, the more negative polls are.
Another important aspect of the election is that they require a close international monitoring considering that the regime will do the impossible to cheat. That observation cannot be only a "accompaniment" on election day, that is, electoral tourists that come for the election day to see that all takes place in some sort of order, unable to check for possible fraud and forbidden to make any comments until the final results are proclaimed. In short, worth repeating, electoral tourism.
What we need is a real observation of all aspects of the process and that requires that in the coming weeks specialists from the OAS, UN and EU start visiting and have access to the different mechanisms and be allowed to talk to the different parties. Yesterday Venezuela seems to have accepted only UNASUR, the partial South American association that has time and again taken the side of the regime refusing to look at electoral fraud. We are not even sure if they will come as observers or tourists. Same difference I suppose for them.
Hence that Lopez "victory" on elections is far from being complete. Or even partial if you ask me, But it has been the least damaging way the regime found to end the hunger strike. And for this we should celebrate.
The victory of Leopoldo Lopez is elsewhere. Since he has been arrested over a year ago his actions and his resistance have clearly established that the regime is a dictatorship controlled from the radicals from Cuba. Apparently there is talk of a division between the radical, Fidelistas, and the ones who want to negotiate with the US, Raulistas (?). The Fidelistas would want Leopoldo dead.
Lopez courageous victories come from demonstrating that his trial is a political trial through a kangaroo court; that his detention conditions are abysmal (compared to those that Chaevz had, for example); on how his political allies have been hunted down without mercy without even a fake excuse; on the deeply calumnious nature of the regime; on how this one flouts any international norm, and basic human rights. The victory of Leopoldo Lopez has made it impossible for democratic leaders to have their picture taken with the regime, except for those corrupt enough like Lula or Rousseff. That Maduro claimed an ear infection not to go an visit the Pope is due to Lopez actions and hunger strike.
Dealings with the Venezuelan regime are now left to underlings or operators like Shannon meeting with impossible characters like Cabello because there is no other option. Venezuela is a pariah state and Lopez victory has been to force the world to recognize that fact. That does not mean the world soon will do something effective about it, but as long as all the people that count do not agree on that qualification for the Venezuelan regime, nothing substantive can be done.
For this, in my book, the sacrifice of Lopez was phenomenal and he deserves our gratitude.