December 18, 2014
Who is Leopoldo López?
CARACAS — A former mayor of the affluent Chacao district of Caracas, Leopoldo López has emerged in recent months as a hardline leader of those in the Venezuelan opposition who seek an immediate end to President Nicolás Maduro’s Socialist government.
His strategy of high-profile rallies and demonstrations has run counter to the moderate wing of the opposition, which is more focused on improving shoddy public services and highlighting the problems with the Socialist Party’s state-led economic model.
López briefly ran as one of five presidential hopefuls in the 2012 opposition primary that picked a unified leader to run against Hugo Chávez but bowed out of the race to back state governor Henrique Capriles’ ultimately unsuccessful bid.
The two of them have maintained an off-and-on rivalry. Capriles galvanized the opposition and became its de facto leader after running a vigorous campaign against Chávez and nearly beating Maduro in a presidential election in April last year.
In 2008, the government quashed López’s bid for Caracas mayor by ruling he could not hold public office, even if he won the election, due to corruption charges for which he was accused but never tried. Critics say that halted a political career that could have ended in the presidency.
The Maduro government has accused him of charges including murder and terrorism relating to the unrest in Venezuela in which four people have died. He denies that, saying he is being made a scapegoat by a dictatorial government.
López founded the Popular Will political party after disagreements with other opposition figures, and built a network of supporters in poor and middle-class areas.
An athletic 42-year-old who plays up his photogenic looks, López speaks flawless English and studied in the United States on a swimming scholarship, gaining a Masters Degree from Harvard.
He is an economist and father-of-two and lives in an apartment in the wealthy Chacao district where he was once mayor.