South Florida

Venezuelans, Lawmakers React to Release of Opposition Leader Leopoldo López

The Venezuelan community in Doral is in good spirits Saturday after news spread of the release of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from prison.

Many Venezuelans living in South Florida celebrated Lopez's release at El Arepazo 2 Saturday, but remain cautiously optimistic as they say the fight for freedom in Venezuela is far from over.

"I am very happy for him and his family," Luis Felipe Martinez said. "It's only fair that he's with his wife and his kids."

Lopez was released from prison and placed under house arrest Saturday after more than three years in military lockup, a shock reversal that fueled hopes for a broader amnesty for dozens of jailed activists as the country slides ever deeper into political turmoil.

Maria Gonzalez, a Venezuelan living in Doral, it appears good that Lopez was released but it's only one step closer to justice. She says it's important that anti-government protesters keep hitting the streets.

Venezuela's government-stacked Supreme Court said in a statement that it had granted Lopez the "humanitarian measures" for health reasons and "serious signs of irregularities" in the handling of the case that it did not specify.

Local politicians in South Florida also weighed in on the situation.

"While Leopoldo Lopez was released from prison, reports indicate he is still on house arrest," Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart said. "We will continue to demand freedom for Venezuelan people and release all Venezuelan political prisoners."

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says Leopoldo's release from prison is somewhat welcomed news.

"However, this half-measure by the Maduro regime to distract the Venezuelan people will not end the demand for Leopoldo's unconditional freedom and will not end the calls for freedom, democracy, and the respect of human rights for all Venezuelans," the congresswoman said.

While opposition groups say his release is a step in the right direction, they're still fighting for open elections and an end to the humanitarian and economic crisis in Venezuela.

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