On February 14th The Dialogue invited Lilian Tintori, Leopoldo López’s wife and Venezuelan human rights activist, and Miriam Kornblith, senior director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the National Endowment for Democracy to speak about the situation in Venezuela. Leopoldo López is an opposition leader in Venezuela and the head of the political party Voluntad Popular; he has been a political prisoner since February 18th, 2014.

Tintori has been committed to spreading the word on the political situation in Venezuela for the past three years since her husband was imprisoned by President Maduro’s government. Throughout the event the speakers highlighted that there is an undeniable dictatorship in Venezuela that hinders power autonomy, prosecutes dissidents, and violates rule of law and human rights regularly. Tintori also stressed the urgent character of what is the worst humanitarian and economic crisis in the country’s history. She advocated for the immediate release of Leopoldo López, Antonio Ledezma, and all the 108 political prisoners.

In Washington, Tintori hopes to accomplish a deeper understanding of the situation in Venezuela and to further the recognition of Maduro’s government as a dictatorship. She asks the US to act quickly. For Tintori, the first step to move forward needs to be the release of the political prisoners. She will not support dialogue efforts as long as there are political prisoners. Tintori also requests the US to support the activation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Kornblith stressed Venezuela’s current opportunities resulting from the new regional environment. Maduro’s government has weakened politically and economically, and by banning elections has demonstrated its dictatorial status. Additionally, there is new leadership in the region, such as Luis Almagro in the OAS, trying to uphold democratic values and human rights in the country. This provides an opportunity to address the worst crisis in the region in a more constructive manner. Kornblith argued that the Venezuelan opposition must build on the alliances that the government has lost. The challenge remains for the opposition to restructure itself and redefine its strategy to deal with a recognizable dictatorship.

Tintori highlighted that the world now knows that Venezuela is suffering from human rights violations, scarcity of food and medicine, and 99% rate of impunity. She underscored the need for the democratic forces in the country to build alliances against the country’s government. She asked for the help of the international community, Venezuela cannot fix itself.

Watch the full recording of the event here 

See press coverage of the event in NTN24