Leopoldo Lopez Venezuela Opposition Protests Caracas New York Times
Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez speaks to supporters before handing himself over in CaracasReuters

Venezuela opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has written an open and critical letter about the Venezuelan regime from his detention in Ramo Verde military prison.

Writing in the New York Times, Lopez criticises the Latin American nation's high murder rate, "crippled economy" and "oppressive political climate".

"I am struck by how much Venezuelans have suffered," he said.

The former mayor of the Chacao district of Caracas and leader of the Popular Will opposition party condemned the murder of ordinary Venezuelans in anti-government protests and Nicolas Maduro's regime's attempts to silence dissent.

"We must continue to speak, act and protest. We must never allow our nerves to become deadened to the steady abuse of rights that is taking place. And we must pursue an agenda for change."

He then detailed a list of measures to move the opposition movement forward. First, the resignation of "those responsible" for "repression, abuse and torture". Second, the disarmament of "colectivos" who attempted to silence protests "through violence and intimidation".

Third, all political prisoners or dissenters forced into exile "must be allowed to return or be released". Lastly, an "investigation into fraud" that has cost the Venezuelan economy $15bn in order to get it back "on the right footing".

He concluded that the desired goals of the Venezuelan opposition are "not radical" but the "basic building blocks of society".

"For Venezuelans, a change in leadership can be accomplished entirely within a constitutional and legal framework. We must advocate for human rights; freedom of expression; the right to property, housing, health and education; equality within the judicial system, and, of course, the right of protest."

Lopez was arrested on 18 February after sparking a nationwide protest against the Maduro administration.

He reportedly handed himself over to the National Guard after addressing 5,000 supporters with a megaphone.

"If they put me in prison, it'll wake up the people. That's worthwhile," he said, according to USA Today. "I'm never going to leave this country."

He then walked towards police patrolling the demonstration and turned himself in.