Three years ago, Venezuela’s socialist regime jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López for leading anti-government protests – and also tried to imprison López’s top lieutenant, Carlos Vecchio.
But Vecchio went into hiding and then into exile in South Florida. From here Vecchio helps lead López’s party, Voluntad Popular, or Popular Will.
More intense protests against President Nicolás Maduro have erupted this year as Venezuela’s economy and democracy collapse. By essentially forcing Vecchio to reside here, Maduro unwittingly handed the opposition an effective lobbyist in the U.S. The Harvard-educated Vecchio has become a key liaison between demonstrators in Venezuela and leaders in Washington, who are looking for ways to end Venezuela’s crisis.
Vecchio spoke with WLRN’s Tim Padgett where that crisis might be headed – and what if anything the U.S. can do about it.
Leopoldo López remains in prison in Caracas. For you – how hard is it to run an opposition movement from exile? Or is it perhaps easier?
You know, this is like being on a soccer team: you have to play a particular position in the field. So that’s what I’m doing right now. I decided to leave Venezuela in order to denounce internationally what is happening in Venezuela, the violation of human rights, but also [explain] what we represent as an opposition.
What’s the most important way you’re playing that role, being el vocero, the spokesman for the opposition in Washington?
I’ve been talking mainly inside the Organization of American States, and particularly with its secretary general, Luis Almagro, who has played an important role in this crisis.
He’s condemned the Maduro regime very strongly.
When Maduro feels that he will lose the power, the only tool that he has is repression. But at the end of the day, the military will be backing the people in the street. We are very close to that breaking point. -Carlos Vecchio
Yes. But at the same time I’m working with the U.S. administration, the White House and the State…