The leader of the Venezuelan opposition movement, Leopoldo López, has roots in Princeton, having graduated from Princeton’s Hun School in 1989. The Hun School is an independent college preparatory school located in Princeton.
In Venezuela, López was twice elected the mayor of Chacao. He organized the opposition party in the 2013 election when Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate, nearly overtook current President Nicólas Maduro in the polls.
After graduating from the Hun School, López attended Kenyon College and Harvard’s School of Government before returning to Venezuela.
López stood out at the Hun School as a student who wanted to give back and help his native nation of Venezuela, Hun School ESL Department Chair and Director of the International Student Program Dianne Somers said. Somers had taught López when he attended the Hun School.
Somers said she remembered a notable moment when López said in class that the purpose of life is to help others.
“There was no doubt in my mind ever that he was going to make some kind of change,” Somers said, adding that López provides former and current Hun School students with an example of how one person can change the world.
Janine Cadet ’17, a former Hun School student, said López is a motivational figure to her. Cadet added that, for her, their common roots emphasize that she can do just as much for the world.
However, Jason Elefant ’15, who also attended the Hun School, said he didn’t quite grasp López’s importance until the Hun School began to share articles on social media sites regarding his involvement.
Elefant also noted the local development of a major political figure is an exciting development.
Protests in Venezuela began early this February. Reports state the opposition, led by López, is calling for increased security, economic improvements and protection of freedom of speech rights. The government has responded by blaming the nation’s troubles on political opposition groups and using force against protesters.
Human Rights Watch said in a February press release that the government’s efforts are unlawful and excessive.
“The Venezuelan government has openly embraced the classic tactics of an authoritarian regime, jailing its opponents, muzzling the media, and intimidating civil society,” Americas Director at Human Rights Watch José Miguel Vivanco said.
López turned himself over to Venezuelan authorities on Feb. 18 in response to President Nicolas Maduro’s allegations that he is a “terrorist” and “fascist,” according to CNN reports.
In a public address prior to his arrest, López stated that he refuses to leave Venezuela.
López is still in the custody of the Venezuelan government, though protests have continued in his absence. The Hun School continues to show their support for him by posting updates on the length of his internment on Twitter and exhorting community and school members to keep him in their thoughts.
“I am praying [for López], to tell you the truth,” Somers said. “To me he will always be that boy in the classroom.”