Caracas says Spain envoy helped Venezuela opposition leader flee

Cheryl Sanders
October 26, 2020

Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez arrived in Madrid on Sunday, Spain's foreign ministry said, after spending the past year at the Spanish ambassador's residence in Venezuela to escape house arrest. He then sought refuge inside the Spanish ambassador's residence.

Lopez, the former mayor of Chacao, an up-market district of Caracas, was arrested in 2014 and accused of inciting violence when mass opposition protests began in Venezuela.

"We call attention to this new abuse by the dictatorship's henchmen", Mr Lopez's Popular Will party said in a statement, referring to the detentions.

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez arrived in Spain on Sunday.

"As a corollary of such grotesque, shameless and gross violation of the Vienna Convention, today it is clearly verifiable that the head of the Spanish diplomatic mission in Venezuela acted as the main organizer and confessed accomplice of the announced escape of Lopez", the Foreign Ministry underlines.

While the USA and many other countries now consider Guaido to be the country's legitimate president, an influential Trump administration official secretly met with a representative of Venezuela's regime in Mexico City in September to try to negotiate Maduro's departure from power.

Spain's government condemned that action, saying it violated the Vienna convention governing worldwide diplomatic relations.

Mr Lopez, 49, has yet to make a public appearance.

Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori, who had joined him at the Spanish ambassador's residence, left for Spain in May 2019 along with their daughter. But he said Saturday night on social media that the decision to leave his homeland had not been "simple". Travel by land has grown increasingly hard because of widespread fuel shortages and checkpoints manned by security forces have proliferated across the country. From house arrest, he mentored Juan Guaido, a young Popular Will delegate who early a year ago was elected head of the opposition-controlled congress.

Mr Lopez was sentenced in 2015 to almost 14 years in prison after being convicted of inciting violence during anti-government protests in which three people died and dozens were wounded.

He was provisionally released in 2017.

Earlier in the day, Efe reported that Venezuela's Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) had started house-checking a residential building where diplomatic personnel and the Spanish security forces reside, apparently in search of Lopez.

His return was agreed in April the same year, and Caracas says he failed to live up to his commitment to respect "Venezuelan and global laws", noting his sheltering of Lopez.

Other reports by iNewsToday