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The Trump Effect?

Only a day after US President Donald Trump called for the release of Venezuela’s jailed dissenter Leopoldo López, the Caribbean country’s highest court upheld a 14-year prison sentence against him. He was found guilty of public incitement to violence and criminal association during a wave of anti-government protests in 2014.

The unrest left 43 people dead in opposing camps. Since surrendering to authorities three years ago, as thousands took to the streets to demand the resignation of socialist President Nicolás Maduro, Mr López has been locked up in a military prison outside Caracas. His supporters say the charges against him are trumped-up.

The ruling on Thursday followed an appeal by Mr López’s defence and made his conviction final. His globe-trotting wife, Lilian Tintori, who met Mr Trump on Wednesday at the White House, blasted the ruling in Caracas upon her return from Washington, saying “any sentence is completely null. In Venezuela, there is no justice”.

“This shows, once again, that this is a dictatorship,” Mr López’s mother, Antonieta, told the FT. “And it happened just a day after Lilian’s visit to President Trump.”

On Wednesday, the US president tweeted a photo of himself with Ms Tintori demanding Mr López to be released “immediately”. (Barack Obama, had also called for Mr López to be allowed out of jail.) In a time-honoured tradition, Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodríguez, blasted at Mr Trump’s “meddling and aggression”.

Mr Maduro has said that he did not want any “problems with Trump”.

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Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.

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