How does the Venezuelan crisis of democracy relate to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other international trends? Venezuelan political leader and pro-democracy activist Leopoldo López joins the podcast to discuss with Francis Fukuyama and Marisa Kellam, a visiting scholar at CDDRL who researches the quality of democracy with a focus on Latin America. In this inspiring conversation, López emphasizes idealism, leadership, and his personal commitment to freedom.
Leopoldo López is the founder and national coordinator of the Voluntad Popular political party. He received a Bachelor's degree cum laude in sociology and economics from Kenyon College and a Master's degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He was awarded an honoris causa doctorate in Law from Kenyon College in 2007.
López was elected mayor of the municipality of Chacao in Caracas in 2000 and he finished his second term with a 92% approval rate. He also won third place at the World Mayor Awards and the 2007 and 2008 “Premio Transparencia,” awarded by Transparency International.
In 2014 he was unjustly detained by the Maduro regime and was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment. He spent four years in a military prison, a year and a half in house arrest, and another year and a half in the Spanish embassy in Caracas under political asylum. He was recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. Also, in 2015 his detention was declared arbitrary by the UN.
In October 2020, López escaped from Venezuela through Colombia to join his family in Spain. It was the first time in seven years that he was able to be with his family in freedom. In his exile, López continues his fight for Venezuela's democracy and freedom.
López has received several international awards for his fight for democracy and freedom in Venezuela. Among them, he was honored with the 2014 Harvard alumni achievement award, the NED's 2013 Democracy Award, the 2016 Geneva Summit Courage Award, and the 2017 Sakharov Prize for Freedom and Thought.
Marisa Kellam researches the quality of democracy with a focus on Latin America and a growing interest in East Asia. Her research links institutional analysis to various governance outcomes in democracies along three lines of inquiry: political parties and coalitional politics; mass electoral behavior and party system change; and democratic accountability and media freedom. She has published her research in various peer-reviewed journals, including The British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Party Politics, Electoral Studies, and Political Communication.
Originally from Santa Rosa, California, Kellam earned her Ph.D. in political science from UCLA and spent several years as an assistant professor at Texas A&M University. Since 2013, she has been an Associate Professor at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, where she also served as Director of the English-based degree programs for the School of Political Science & Economics. Currently, she is a steering committee member for the V-Dem Regional Center for East Asia and a visiting scholar at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law.