Caracas, February 11th 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed rightwing political leader Leopoldo Lopez, shot to the centre of a diplomatic incident this week, after publicly slandering the Venezuelan government’s human rights record in Mexico.
Tintori travelled to the northern Latin American country earlier this week as part of her international campaign to secure her husband’s release from jail.
The controversial Lopez was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison last year for leading the violent anti-government protests and street barricades, known as "guarimbas," in early 2014. Forty-three people died as a result of the protests and hundreds more were injured.
Since arriving in Mexico, Tintori has met with a series of rightwing political leaders, including Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu, and was even invited into the Mexican Senate alongside Lopez’s mother, Antonieta Lopez.
They were introduced as “human rights activists” by the Senate President and rightwing PAN (National Action Party) Senator Roberto Gil Zuarth.
According to Latin American news site, Telesur English, a PR firm that usually works with celebrities organised Tintori's trip. It takes place in the midst of ongoing controversy in Venezuela over opposition legislators’ plans to back an “Amnesty Law” for those involved in the street barricades.
The legislation could potentially release Lopez - but attempts to set him free will be hampered if he is found to have committed human rights violations.
The national government has already expressed its opposition to the law, and the Supreme Court will be called on if the legislation is seen to be violating Venezuela's Constitution.
It is possible that Tintori’s trip is aimed at putting international pressure on the government ahead of the upcoming political confrontation over the planned amnesty law. The former television presenter asked senators to “remain vigilant” over the legislation.
Despite the controversy surrounding Lopez’s criminal record, Senator Gil Zuarth came out publicly in support of Tintori, and described the amnesty law as a “necessity” for returning to “democracy in Venezuela”.
He made no reference to the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro, who has governed Venezuela since 2013.
The meetings prompted a vehement response from Venezuela's Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez, who accused her Mexican counterpart of supporting human rights violators and ignoring the customs of inter-state diplomacy.
“Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu is echoing the nationless campaign against Venezuela, violating the international law which regulates international relations,” tweeted Rodriguez.
Tintori’s presence at the senate was also reported to have caused division amongst PRD (Democratic Revolution Party) senators - although she was welcomed by the party’s leader, Miguel Barbosa. The political leader gave Tintori a letter addressed to Lopez, whom he described as a “democrat.”
Nonetheless, other senators amongst the PRD’s ranks did not share Barbosa’s position.
“Nobody should intervene in the internal politics of Venezuela, nor favour the opposition of the legally established government,” said PRD Senator, Dolores Padierna Luna, who was backed by fellow PRD senators, Angélica de la Peña Gómez and Mario Delgado Carrillo.
The Mexican PRI (Party of the Institutional Revolution) government of Enrique Peña Nieto, which received Tintori, has also been at the centre of its own human rights controversy since coming to power in 2012 amidst allegations of fraud.
The most infamous stain on the government’s record to date is the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping in which 43 student teachers are widely thought to have been kidnapped, tortured and murdered with the consent of Mexican state security forces.
Recent numbers from a leaked government database suggest that a further 27,000 people have been disappeared in Mexico since the Peña Nieto administration came to office.
Also, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has accused the Mexican state of “relentless human rights violations.”