Leopoldo Lopez, 46, is a Venezuelan politician who co-founded the political party Primero Justicia (Justice First) in 1992. He is also the national coordinator of Voluntad Popular (Popular Will), another party in the country, which he has been leading since 2009.
Lopez served as mayor of the Chacao Municipality of Caracas from 2000 to 2008. The leader, however, has led a low profile since 2015, when he was convicted for calling for anti-government protests. He was found guilty of inciting violence during the 2014 protests, which killed at least 43 people, and sentenced to nearly 14 years in jail. He was imprisoned briefly, but later released and confined to house arrest.
Following his conviction, Lopez rose to become one of Venezuela’s most prominent leaders. He was seen as the face of Opposition against President Nicolas Maduro. Opinion polls reportedly portrayed Lopez as one the most popular politicians in 2014-15. Many world leaders have backed Lopez and called for his release, including US President Donald Trump, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, British PM Theresa May, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron of France.
Lopez, who maintains his innocence, claims his imprisonment was carried out on politically-motivated charges.
Venezuela’s political and economic crisis — it has the world’s highest rate of inflation and is battling extreme shortages of food and medicine, constant electrical blackouts, rampant crime, looting and rioting in the streets — are the main reasons voters have turned to Lopez.
Ahead of the country’s presidential elections next month, thousands have taken to the streets to rally against the ruling party, oust Maduro and demand free and fair elections. The polls are scheduled for May 20, 2018. However, the polls may draw a blank for Lopez, still one of the country’s most popular Opposition faces, as he is prevented from contesting the elections.