Venezuela's jailed opposition leader Lopez granted house arrest, vows to fight on

Venezuela's best-known jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez celebrated a surprise return to his family after being granted house arrest on Saturday with a promise to fight on following three years' imprisonment for leading anti-government protests.

Hours after his pre-dawn transfer from the Ramo Verde military jail, Lopez appeared over a wall of his Caracas house, waving the Venezuelan flag and punching the air before a crowd of hundreds of supporters who cheered and cried upon seeing him. 

In a message released by his party, the 46-year-old hardliner urged opposition supporters to continue street protests against President Nicolas Maduro, which are in their fourth month and have led to at least 90 deaths. 

"If maintaining my fight for freedom means running the risk of returning to a cell in Ramo Verde, I am more than happy to take it," he said in the message read by Freddy Guevara, the No. 2 in Lopez's Popular Will party. 

"Today, I am a prisoner in my house, but so are the Venezuelan people. What kept me going in the toughest days was knowing that whatever suffering I endured was nothing compared to our people." 

"Despite being under house arrest, he showed his face to the country," said Maria Garcia, 36, a business consultant, outside his house. "What we need to do now is stay in the street, because we need to achieve not just the freedom of Leopoldo but also the freedom of the Venezuelan people." 

While the socialist Maduro may be calculating Lopez's return home will ease pressure on him, opposition leaders presented it as a triumph for their protest strategy and a sign the government was caving. 

The U.S. State Department called the decision a "significant step in the right direction," while urging full freedom for Lopez and another 400 opposition political prisoners.

 

 

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