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Latin America

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López appears in video after reports he had been taken to hospital in 'grave' condition

López, who is serving 13 years in jail accused of inciting violence, appeared healthy and sent a greeting to his wife and children.
3 May 2017 – 10:13 PM EDT
Leopoldo Lopez in jail cell video. May 3, 2017

Several hours after rumors circulated that Venezuela's top opposition leader Leopoldo López had been taken to a military hospital in grave condition, he appeared looking healthy in a video apparently recorded in his jail cell.

The rumors gained weight during the evening when Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that he had confirmed that López, 46, had been taken to a military hospital in "very serious condition."

Lopez's wife Lilian Tintori also tweeted late Wednesday that she was on her way to the military hospital in Caracas to ask to see her husband.

Tintori has not been allowed to coomunicate with her husband in more than a month. She and her family, including the couple's two children, have held vigils outside the jail seeking permission to visit him, including on his 46th birthday last week.

On Wednesday night, Tintori was filmed by journalists demanding to see López at the hospital gates. She tweeted; "We want to know the truth. Enough with so much pain! We want to see Leopoldo!"

Tintori was informed by officials that López was not admitted to the hospital and they headed to the Ramo Verde jail on the outskirts of Caracas where he is being held.

In the video message, López appeared calm and gave a "proof of life" message for his family, saying: "I don't know the reason why I am being asked to give this proof of life," he said, noting that he was speaking at 9 p.m. on May 3.

The video was shown by a top ruling party official, Diosdado Cabello, on a state TV program.

Tintori and López's mother were back out at the gates of the jail at dawn on Thursday.

Rubio, who is of Cuban descent, represents a growing Venezuelan exile community in South Florida. In February he helped arrange a White House meeting for Tintori with President Donald Trump.

The president tweeted a photograph of himself with Rubio and Tintori, as well as Vice President Mike Pence, urging his immediate release.

López, the former mayor of a district in Caracas, headed the Popular Will opposition party. He was arrested after a speech during the protests in 2014 and later sentenced to a 14-year sentence for "inciting violence."

Human Rights Watch says he was "arbitrarily arrested" and denied a fair trial.

"His detention has been a nightmare for him and his family. At Human Rights Watch, we have used our global reach to advocate publicly and at the highest levels against Leopoldo’s baseless, political prosecution," said José Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch's Americas division, in a recent speech in Miami.

"The situation in Venezuela is only getting worse. The concentration of power is enormous and without any institution left to act as a check on the executive power, Nicolás Maduro has used that power to intimidate, censor, and imprison its critics – critics like Leopoldo López," he added.