Venezuelan opposition leader joins family in Spain after fleeing Caracas

Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez flees country

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is a free man and has been reunited with his family in Madrid following a daring escape from Caracas after more than six years in confinement.

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

It further emphasizes that the diplomat helped organized on several occasions in his residence activities against the Venezuelan government, and puts as an example the organization of the mercenary operation Gedeon, whose main objective was to assassinate President Maduro.

The founder of the far right Popular Will party was a key actor in the 2002 failed coup attempt against then President Hugo Chavez and later played a leading role in the 2014 violent "guarimba" street protests which left 43 people dead.

In a statement, the Spanish foreign ministry said Lopez's decision to leave the Spanish embassy in Venezuela was "personal and voluntary".

Following Lopez's departure, Caracas denounced what it called "the flagrant breach of the fundamental provisions of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations" by Spain.

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

Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori, who had joined him at the residence, left for Spain that May. But he said Saturday night on social media that the decision to leave his homeland had not been "simple". Two people familiar with the matter said he traveled via Colombia.

"We await you in the diaspora to continue fighting for the freedom of all of Venezuela", said Antonio Ledezma, a former Caracas mayor who himself fled in a risky trek by land out of the nation in 2017 after being briefly jailed on charges of plotting to oust Maduro. Travel by land has grown increasingly hard because of widespread fuel shortages.

In a message directed to Maduro on Twitter, U.S. -backed opposition leader Juan Guaido said his political mentor had gotten out of Venezuela by "evading your repressive apparatus".

It is unclear how Mr Lopez left the ambassador's residence, given the heavy state security presence permanently stationed outside the property.

He was freed by the military officials who were keeping him under house arrest, and quickly sought refuge inside the Spanish ambassador's residence. But as a holdover from previous Spanish administrations who was once expelled by Maduro, he was less effective an interlocutor when Spain's socialist government took power.

In April 2019, Lopez backed Guaido's attempt at a military revolt against Maduro.



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