Venezuela’s most renowned political prisoner is home. Not free; not yet. But home; that will do for now. For him – to eat food mixed with love by his wife instead of excrement by his hostage takers; to talk on the telephone with his father; to read his children books, giving them a bath before putting them to bed with a prayer of thanks. To start to heal: his body, from torture physical and psychological; his soul, from the godless cruelty of the kidnappers; his family, finding a way to reconnect with his wife, remember his children, make peace with his God.
The narco-government of that communist state botched it this time. Badly. First, they created a martyr when one need not have been be made, then they showed he is stronger than they are. Leopoldo went into the gulag a young mayor-activist, wrongly accused to be sure – but how many of those aren’t there in the world? And how many of their names do you know? He could have rotted unperceived. But they botched his trumped up trial; they created for him a platform; they put his name on the lips of Presidents, Secretary Generals and Foreign Ministers and Nobel Laureates. Because of all this, Leopoldo will be the end of the regime; they know this – but what else can they do? In the opaque halls of illegitimate power somebody made a calculation that the situation was not tenable; that some pressure needed released. Maybe they hope that pictures of Leopoldo at home, surrounded by his wife and watching television with his children will usher him into the long list of ‘former problems’ dealt with and forgotten. Maybe they think he will help them quiet down the raging street.
The same calculations have been made in the past. A long time ago the Soviet Union tried to release Natan Sharansky hidden within a throng of spies, a feeble attempt to shadow his moral superiority; Reagan refused, and negotiated with Gorbachev the refusenik’s solitary walk to freedom. The Soviet Union is no more; while Sharansky does abide.
When Aung San Suu Kyi won the Burmese election in 1990, from house arrest, the military junta nullified the elections and kept her at home. 22 years later she was elected to parliament, and today she is Burma’s President. When the Apartheid regime attempted to silence Mandela by taking him from Robin Island and sending him to house-arrest in the country, it was in the waning days of their stranglehold on power. Mandela was delivered the presidency in short order.
There are many stories such as these – going back in time as far as written history allows. While prisoners rot away in the gulag or are murdered in the night there is a doubt that their sacrifices will bear fruit. But history shows that when a regime is forced to bend, even if only a little, it opens a tiny crack in the dam; ruining the structural integrity of the construction forever. Venezuela’s edifice of hate and violence and stupidity has been breached, and is coming to an end – they have known this for a long time; but only with Leopoldo’s release have they shown the world.
So, for now we rejoice with the Lopez family not only for the return of Venezuela’s favorite son home, but more importantly for what it means to a nation struggling to be free.