Apr 20th, 2017, 11:04 PM

The Woman Who is Changing Venezuela

By Verónica Ayala
Image Credit: Twitter page @liliantintori
Venezuelan activist, Lilian Tintori, is fighting for the freedom of her husband and her country.

It has been three years and two months since the opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, turned himself in to the Venezuelan regime. His wife, Lilian Tintori, has been fighting since that day, back in 2014, for the liberation of her husband and all the political prisoners in Venezuela.

Tintori is a human rights activist who has gone around the world meeting with different presidents, the Pope, congress members, NGO's, political leaders and more; seeking support for Venezuela. Alongside her has been the mother of Leopoldo, Antonieta Mendoza. Tintori has become the face of the opposition to the government of Nicolas Maduro. She has denounced countless times in her Twitter account the violation of the rights of her and her husband.

Her life shifted completely after Leopoldo got incarcerated. She studied preschool education and later political communications in Venezuela. She is a marathon runner, swimmer and in 2003 she became national kitesurfing champion. She created the campaign "Todos Por La Libertad" (All For Freedom) advocating for the liberation of all the political prisoners, of which today are more than 100 in Venezuela. With a tireless agenda of being a mother, visiting Leopoldo in the Ramo Verde military prison, press conferences, activism, protests, meetings with leaders from all over the world; here are some of Tintori's highlights.  


Lilian this past 19 of May with a gas mask to protect herself from government repression Image Credit: Twitter/liliantintori 

Rescate Venezuela (Rescue Venezuela) 

This initiative was held by the political party founded by Leopoldo Lopez, Unidad Popular, with Tintori as the spokesperson and working side by side with the party. Its main objective was to provide medical supplies to different hospitals around Venezuela that were donated by Venezuelans all over the world. They acted as the economic and social crisis of the country lead the hospitals to run short on basic supplies. They recollected donations from eleven different cities all over the world, like Paris, Madrid, New York, and Bogotá. They received around 5000 boxes with medical supplies and delivered them around the country. 


ILilian with Rescate Venezuela boxes before donating them to a hospital. Image Credit: Twitter/liliantintori 

Human Rights Watch and the United Nations 

Tintori has attracted the attention of several international entities, that by now, have supported her in this process. The director of the Americas of the Human Rights Watch, José Migue Vivanco, has shown his support to Tintori and Lopez countless times.  She was invited to the the Human Rights Commission to denounce the violation of human rights in Venezuela. She was accompanied by a member of the Human Rights Watch; who presented a studio about the violation of rights to minorities in the country. The UN has also shown its support in Tintori's cause. The United Nations human rights chief, Ra'ad Al Hussein, asked for the "immediate release" of Leopoldo in 2014. 


Image Credit: Twitter/liliantintori 

United States

Tintori has reached out to numerous governments around the world. This past February, Lilian took her testimony to the Oval Office where she met with President Trump, vice president Pence, and the First Lady. She talked about the humanitarian crisis, the lack of medicine and food, the fact that there are 109 political prisoners and much more. She pointed out that Trump was informed about the situation in Venezuela. Former President Barack Obama also spoke about the unjust incarceration of Leopoldo Lopez and declared that he deserves to be free. 


Image Credit: Twitter/liliantintori
 

Pope Francis and the Catholic Church

The Venezuelan activist also has the support of the Catholic Church and Pope Francis. In May of 2014, she met with the Pope to explain the situation of her husband, as she did with president Trump. Last year she chained herself, alongside the mother of Leopoldo and the wife of the former mayor of Caracas, who is also a political prisoner, in front of Plaza San Pedro at the Vatican. It was a symbolic protest, representing all the "chains" Venezuelans live with today. They stayed chained for 50 hours, asking for recognition from the Church. They did this as a dialog was held between the opposition and the regime in Venezuela. With no response, and with a dialog that failed its first meeting for not agreeing to the liberation of the political prisoners, Tintori declared that the result of the dialog proved to the Venezuelans the kind of government they have and it will allow them to start raising their voice every day more.      


Lilian, Antonieta and Mitzy chained at the Vatican Image Credit: Twitter/liliantintori

Other entities who support her

With her countless interviews, protests, tireless work, and actively publishing every step of her path in social media, Lilian Tintori has attracted attention to much more than the entities already mentioned. Most recently she met with the president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, where he announced, once again, his full support to Tintori and the Venezuelans in Argentina. The NGO Amnistía Internacional (Amnesty International) recognized for fighting human rights violations all over the world, have supported her for these three years and denounced the severe situation of hunger and lack of medicines in Venezuela. Countries like Mexico, Peru, and Spain have received Tintori and allowed her to present her case.    


Image Credit: Twitter page @liliantintori

Who is Leopoldo Lopez?

Leopoldo Lopez is a Venezuelan politician who got arrested after the protests in 2014 that almost destabilized Maduro's government. He was sentenced to thirteen years in jail, in a closed-door trial, for inciting violence during the protests where 43 people died (from opposition and supporters of the regime). He studied in the United States and has a master's degree in public politics from Harvard University. He was the elected mayor of the Caracas district, Chacao, from 2000 to 2008. In 2016 he was announced as the winner of the Geneva Summit Courage Award by the 25 NGO's led by UN Watch.

He wrote a book titled "Preso Pero Libre" (Prisoner But Free) from his jail cell in military prison Ramo Verde. In the book, he talks about his reflections, his conversations with other prisoners and his hunger strike. Today he is kept isolated on the third floor of a tower with no lightbulbs. The lieutenant took his books, pencils, and papers, as a punishment for all the actions Tintori takes for his freedom. His youngest son learned how to walk in the prison cell, and his oldest daughter loves visiting the jail because she knows it means she gets to see her dad.


Image Credit: Twitter/liliantintori