Reports surfaced May 3 that said Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez has been hospitalized and is in “grave condition.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio sent out a tweet that said he had “confirmation” that Lopez had been hospitalized and was in “serious condition.”
But a video posted to Twitter shows Lopez standing in a jail cell on what appears to be the same day, calling Rubio’s claims false.
Lopez is a former politician and activist that’s serving a 13-year sentence for crimes that include instigation of delinquency, arson, damage to public property, incitement to riot and terrorism. Many have viewed the charges against Lopez as politically motivated. Human rights groups and numerous United States politicians — including President Donald Trump — have all came out and demanded that he be released from prison because of the government’s way of handling the trial.
His wife, Lilian Tintori, has been extremely outspoken since his imprisonment. Similar to her husband, Tintori has led groups that have opposed the Venezuelan government and President Nicolas Maduro.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Tintori Become the Face of the Democracy Movement
Lopez was arrested in 2014 during a series of widespread protests aimed against the government. Shortly after that, his wife became one of the faces of Venezuela’s opposition.
Her husband was elected mayor of Chacao in 2000, serving until 2008 when he was disqualified from running for office.
While her husband has remained jailed at a military prison near Caracas, Tintori has taken action. She wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post in 2014 talking about Lopez’s prison sentence and the need for him to be released.
She said that her husband was arrested in mid-January 2014 “without investigation” on the order of the president, adding that Maduro is “afraid of him.”
(Hugo) Chávez did not deliver and Maduro has not delivered on their promises, and they have systematically dismantled our fundamental freedoms — free speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press and freedom to vote for candidates of our choosing.
Tintori continued to call for Maduro to release Lopez “and more than 100 political prisoners” that were being held. She urged leaders from countries and governments around the world to “take meaningful action to press Maduro to free the political prisoners in Venezuela.”
U.S. President Donald Trump was one of those leaders to voice their displeasure with Lopez’s jailing. In February, Tintori even visited Trump at the White House alongside Vice President Mike Pence and Rubio.
Maduro hasn’t taken well to Tintori’s activism, calling her a “terrorist” and for her workings to be “neutralized.” She’s said that officials from the government now follow her around daily and try to intimidate her.
She’s helped lead many protests in Venezuela calling for Lopez’s release as well putting an end to the Communist government.
2. Lopez & Tintori Have 2 Children
The couple got married in May 2007 and have two children together.
In her op-ed piece to The Post, Tintori said that they have a 6-year-old daughter named Manuela and a 3-year-old son named Leopoldo.
Tintori spoke about how on her husband’s birthday, she and her children tried to bring him a birthday cake at the Ramo Verde military prison where he was being held. But the family was turned away by officials at the gate. She said that the family was “forced to celebrate on the street outside prison.” They all sang “Happy Birthday” to their husband and father who was with other activists.
It’s a tradition that’s carried on ever since he was placed into prison in 2014.
Tintori told The Atlantic that it’s been a lot of work being forced to be a single parent.
“I have to be both mother and father, raising my kids at the same time as I work to get Leopoldo freed,” she said.
3. Tintori Is a Former Kitesurfing Champion
Tintori isn’t only a mother and activist, she’s also quite an athlete. She’s run marathons, is a swimmer and found much success as a kitesurfer.
In fact, she won a national championship in the sport in 2003. In 2008, she became the first woman to try and cross 25 kilometers of the Caribbean Sea that separates the Peninsula of Paraguana from Venezuela and Aruba on a kiteboard.
“We will have a 60-kilometer (37-mile) course for more than three hours,” she said to a Venezuelan news outlet Mediotiempo. “(I will have to) sail on waves between 1 and 3 meters high and dominate the sail of a kite in winds between 18 and 25 knots of speed.”
Tintori said to the news outlet that she wanted to perform the feat in memory of her father Franco, who died in 2007.
4. She Was Was On Venezuelan TV As a Reality Star
Before she started her athletic career, Tintori was the star of a reality TV show. The show was called Robinson: La Gran Aventura and it aired in Venezuela for one year (2001-2002). The show was largely similar to Survivor and Tintori competed in the inaugural season. She didn’t win the show, but it worked as a launchpad for a bigger career on Venezuelan TV.
She worked as a TV host for a number of news programs and was also a radio personality. Not before long, her face was on billboards in Venezuela and she was known as a celebrity in the country. She also worked as a model for several magazines and has even posed nude in the past.
5. She Has a Degree In Preschool Education
Titori’s mother is Venezuelan and her father is Argentinian. They moved to Venezuela when she was a child after fleeing the government run by dictator Jorge Videla.
Tintori studied at Merici Academy in Caracas and then earned a bachelor’s degree in preschool education while also minoring in political communications from the Andres Bellow Catholic University in the country.