Venezuela: Leopoldo Lopez denies rumors he’s hospitalized

(CNN)Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has a message from prison: he is alive and well.

Lopez appeared on video to dispel health rumors after a local journalist tweeted Wednesday night that he had been transported from a prison outside Caracas — where he’s been detained since 2014 — to the hospital.
US Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted he had confirmed Lopez was hospitalized in “very serious condition,” adding to the frenzy on social media.
    In a flurry of tweets, Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, said she was rushing to the hospital to get information on her husband. Video footage later showed her outside the hospital gates, tearfully asking if her husband was there. She later tweeted she was told he was not at the hospital.
    Shortly after, Lopez appeared on state television in a white tank top with prison bars behind him.
    “This is a proof of life message for my family. Today is May 3. It’s 9 p.m.,” he said in the video.
    “It’s a message for Lilian. I don’t understand the reason why I am to give a proof of life at this moment. I send this message to my family, to my children and I am telling them that I am well.”
    Rubio knows Tintori, and was with her when she met President Donald Trump at the White House in February.

    Face of the opposition

    Lopez, a fiery speaker and charismatic leader, has become the face of the opposition in Venezuela. He was detained in 2014 after the government of President Nicolas Maduro accused him of terrorism and inciting anti-government protests that left several people dead.
    He has long been considered a threat to the socialists in power in Venezuela.
    In 2008, the government of then-President Hugo Chavez banned Lopez from running for public office, accusing him of corruption and misuse of public funds. Lopez described it as political retribution and took his case to an international human rights court, which cleared him three years later.

    Anti-government protests

    The rumors about his health come as Venezuela is rocked by violent protests as opposition leaders have faced off with Maduro and his supporters.
    Venezuela’s attorney general said at least 29 people have been killed since the protests erupted last month. This number includes many cases unrelated to the political protests, including incidents of looting, CNN has found.
    Anti-government protesters want Maduro to step down and new elections be held. The government has repeatedly blocked any attempts to oust Maduro from power by a referendum vote. It has also delayed local and state elections.

      Price of food skyrockets in Venezuela


    The last vote held in Venezuela, the parliamentary election of 2015, gave the opposition a majority. Critics say elections have been delayed because Maduro is afraid of the outcome.
    The political turmoil comes against the backdrop of a worsening economic crisis. Despite having the largest proven oil reserves in the world, Venezuela is fast running out of cash, and its people have struggled for years with food and medical shortages, coupled with skyrocketing prices.

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