The Logic of the López Measure

We can only speculate on what the government’s motives were in conceding house arrest to Leopoldo López. But I think there is one logic that is not being discussed enough. The move facilitates the government’s ability to remove Luisa Ortega Díaz from the Attorney General’s office.

It allows the government to highlight that it was Luisa Ortega’s office that accused, investigated and prosecuted Leopoldo López. Ortega Díaz has become an inspiration for national and international opposition to the Maduro government and the López case is one of many uncomfortable facts that complicate this status. Indeed she uncomfortably was limited to suggesting that this kind of legal measure cannot be taken as part of a negotiation.

It simultaneously allows the government to exculpate itself from the López’s jailing. Maduro can say it was the autonomous Attorney General’s office that prosecuted him. The Attorney General’s break with the Maduro government only highlights this autonomy and allows Maduro to put the blame for López’s status elsewhere.

Finally, since many members of the coalition are still guided by the government’s propaganda that the 43 deaths in 2014 were López’s fault, their obedience to an order they disagree with is held up as an exemplary attitude to take towards the workings of an autonomous power, i.e. the TSJ.

So if the TSJ decides to remove Ortega Díaz today or tomorrow (on July 4 they gave themselves 5 working days to make a decision), it could meet national and international reaction by saying: “the TSJ makes its own decisions and needs to be respected. We did not agree with the López release, but honored the decision anyway. If you were as democratic as us, you would do the same.” At the same time, the national and international opposition will be in the awkward position of celebrating the transfer of López out of prison, while lamenting the dismissal of the person who put him there.