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Ahead of Venezuela freedom rally, Rick Scott says it is important to be a ‘voice for freedom’

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Stressing the importance of being a “voice for freedom,” Gov. Rick Scott will once again hold a rally in Miami today calling on Venezuela to completely release Leopoldo Lopez and all political prisoners.

The rally — scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at El Arepazo #2 in Miami — is the second rally Scott has held advocating for Lopez’s release. The Naples Republican held a similar rally calling for Lopez’s release in May, after news reports suggested Lopez’s health was failing.

This rally comes just two days after Lopez was released from prison and placed under house arrested after more than three years of military lockup. The move was a described as a shocking reversal by the government, and has fueled hopes for broader amnesty for dozens of jailed activists.

Lopez was arrested in 2014 and charged with arson and conspiracy after he called for peaceful protests. He was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison in September 2015, a move that was highly controversial.

The Associated Press reported that Venezuela’s government-stacked Supreme Court said in a statement that it granted Lopez the “humanitarian measures” for health reasons and also for “serious signs of irregularities” in the handling of the case that it did not specify.

“All of us want to live in a place where there’s freedom — political freedom, freedom of speech, all of these things,” said Scott after a stop in Fort Myers on Monday morning. “So it’s important when you have the opportunity to be a voice for freedom.”

Scott has been one of a growing number of Floridians who have called for Lopez’s release. Sen. Marco Rubio accompanied Lilian Tintori, Lopez’s wife, to the White House for a meeting with President Donald Trump in February, and has called for his release. So has Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican who in February called Lopez “one of many pro-democracy members of the opposition … that have been imprisoned for running afoul of the corrupt Maduro regime.”

Last week, Scott also announced he planned to ask the State Board of Administration in August to prohibit the state from doing business with any organization that supports Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“Floridians stand with the people of Venezuela as they fight for their freedom, and as a state, we must not provide any support for Maduro and his thugs,” he said in a statement.

The request appears to have bipartisan support. According to the Miami Herald, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez has said he plans to file legislation that would divest the state from businesses that would work with the Maduro regime.

“There’s a direct correlation between trade and democracy,” said Scott on Monday. “I think it’s important around the world, but for Florida, it’s a big deal because of how much of our trade is tied to Latin America.”

The rally is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at El Arepazo #2.

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permissions.

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