That day, after two weeks demanding my right to vote, I was able to do so in the afternoon. Despite the isolation I have been subjected to I was able to find out about the results that same night in the best way possible. I was in my cell when suddenly I heard the sound of hundreds of people that live in the vicinity of Ramo Verde yelling “yes we can, yes we can¨, and was specially surprised when in the heat of the celebration I heard cries of “Leopoldo you are our friend, the people are with you”. Those who yelled knew that I would listen and that it would be the only way for me to find out about the results. The first thing that came to mind were the powerful first few words of our national anthem “Glory to the brave people!” and I could not contain the emotion. This was very similar to the way I felt the day I received word that the date of the parliamentary elections had been sent after my brother, Daniel Ceballos, over 100 young protesters, including other political prisoners, and myself carried out a hunger strike for almost 30 days in order to demand for it. That is why, as best as I could whilst submerged in darkness, I climbed up to the window in my cell to try to get a glimpse of the people celebrating and send a message their way. At first, a heavy fog did not allow me to make much of the scene, but little by little it dissipated and I was able to see with my own eyes the celebration.
That night I laid down to sleep, more committed than ever to the democratic struggle. Seeing and hearing the people shouting slogans a few meters away from a military prison, which has become one of the most significant symbols of the dictatorship, without any fear or regard for potential punishments, made me think that everything has been worthwhile. Any sacrifice for the freedom of our people is worthwhile. I thought of the suffering that Venezuelans have had to endure as a consequence of an imported and flawed model, that is nothing like us and that its imposition has been attempted through the use of force. I reflected a lot upon the Venezuelans that in the past trusted this project and have been disappointed. They are now betting on change. It is an obligation of all members of the Unidad that they feel and understand that this victory is theirs, for them and by them.
The next day, though my lawyer, I was able to find out about all the details and the magnitude of the people’s victory. Before the election we had said that in this opportunity a plebiscite would occur, but not one between members of the opposition and government backers. A plebiscite between the people acting in unity and a corrupt, inefficient and antidemocratic elite led by Nicolás Maduro and Diosdado Cabello, and boy was this so. That Sunday, we, the Venezuelans, wrote a new glorious chapter in our history by subduing a dictatorship through our votes.
The people, aware of all its strength, expressed itself in favor of change in an overwhelming fashion, and not only voted but that defended that vote until the very end. The Venezuelan people put a hand to the chest and stopped the corrupt elite. An elite that has attempted to make us believe that a different Venezuela is not possible but we proved that “yes we can”.
Before the day of the election I was able to send a letter stating that winning the National Assembly was an objective of paramount importance on the road to conquer democracy and to build the Best Venezuela, but that Venezuelans know that this is just the first step. A step, that undoubtedly leads to a greater responsibility for all of us, members of the Unidad, to meet the expectations and hopes of our people.
LETTER FROM LEOPOLDO LÓPEZ:
Having won the election represents the conquest of a fundamental institution for the democratic struggle and represents a weakening of the dictatorship. However, it is also clear that for Venezuela to change once and for all, we must also rescue all other institutions. An unconstitutionally constituted Supreme Court impedes true justice in Venezuela, and through schemes and machinations the dictatorship wants to incorporate for unconstitutional justices before the new National Assembly is convened. The Defensor del Pueblo only defends the dictatorship. The Attorney General only protects the powerful and the victims that dare to denounce the abuses are the ones that stand to be accused and jailed. The Comptroller General only works during electoral cycles, and its only purpose is to ban from running those that think different, whilst it watches in complicity as the biggest pillage in the history of our nation takes place. The Electoral Council once again played a poor role in these elections, allowing for the most abusive campaign in history and extending the voting in an illegal fashion as to habilitate a last ditch desperate attempt of the dictatorship to impede the victory of the people.
With the popular victory of the past Sunday, the dictatorship is weakened, yes, but it still has a stronghold over the other powers of the State and Maduro has already announced that the dictatorship will use them to disavow and ignore the will expressed by the people. I’m certain that the assemblymen of the Unidad will, with humility and serenity, stand their ground and defend the will of the people. But having seen the reaction of Nicolás Maduro and Diosdado Cabello in the face of a democratic triumph it is clear that we can’t stop even for an instant in the pursuit of the true change that is being demand by our people. The dictatorship is weakened, yes, but we are still living under it and our people voted to change a system that oppresses, humiliates and makes it impossible to find solution to the most important challenges. The dictatorship is weakened and it is our duty to not allow it to regroup. If Maduro and other heads of the powers sequestered by the corrupt and antidemocratic elite attempt to sabotage change, then they will have to be replaced.
I am convinced that the new National Assembly not only has the duty to produce democratic legislation but also has the historic role of the promoting the political change sought after by our people. We are obliged to pursue at the same time, the political change, the jumpstarting of the economy and a new social agenda for all Venezuela. There is no doubt that we will not able to find solutions to the dire situation we are living in until we have achieved political change and displaced the corrupt elite that now usurps power, it is a reality and we must be responsible by telling the truth to our people. It is not possible to reactivate national production and hence overcome scarcity and inflation, two great difficulties faced by people, whilst a regime that hides its failures behind a fictitious “economic war” remains in power. It is not possible to address the violence pandemic whilst a dictatorship that not only is complicit with criminal activity, but that has sequestered the judicial branch, and hence the hope of justice, remains in power.
Since 2014 we have stated that we have to escape this disaster through constitutional means as soon as possible. In the face of the immense injustices suffered by the Venezuelan people, there is no room for political calculations or personal conveniences. In the face of injustice, abuse and human rights violations, we must react. Injustices must be combated. Injustices must be faced decisively and without doubt. I’ve decided to confront this dictatorship in all terrains, in the street protesting legitimately, in the electoral ground and in the moral ground, and I’m convinced that it is worthwhile.
It is about reacting in the face of an emergency, the situation of the country, the destruction of the country, the suffering of our people it all calls for it. Venezuela is falling to pieces right before our eyes. How can we tell Venezuelans that live in fear to lose their lives that we must change until 2019 to change this system?. What can we say to all those Venezuelans that must stand in lengthy lines day in and day out while their economic prospects go sour?
As we have said in the past, there are constitutional mechanisms available. As we agreed in July 2015, I ratify my commitment with my partners in the Unidad to carry out a profound discussion of which mechanism should be activated to achieve political change: Recall referendum, a constitutional amendment or reform, resignation or a constitutional assembly.
The dictatorship is weakened, yes, but we are still living under it. The dictatorship is wakened and it is the duty of the democrats to not give it an opportunity to regroup. United we will achieve it. Strength and faith!