Venezuelan dissident Lopez refused to reside in Caracas in order to flee abroad

Venezuelan opposition figure Lopez abandons Caracas residence to flee abroad

CARACAS (Reuters) – Three people familiar with the position of opposition Venezuelan President Leopoldo Lopez said that the opposition Venezuelan politician left the residence of the Spanish ambassador in Caracas to leave the country after more than a year of asylum there to escape from house arrest.

Two of the people said that Lopez was bound for Colombia, but it was not immediately clear if he actually arrived.

Lopez was imprisoned in 2014 after leading protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, before being provisionally released in 2017. From his house arrest, he directed Juan Guaidó, then a young delegate to the hard-line People’s Will.

Early last year, Guaidó was elected president of the opposition-controlled Congress, then applied the constitution to an interim presidency in an effort to unseat Maduro.

In April 2019, when Guaidó sparked a short military revolt against Maduro, Lopez again appeared on the streets beside him. When the uprising subsided, Lopez sought refuge first in the Chilean diplomatic headquarters and then at the home of the Spanish ambassador.

Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, who joined him at his residence, left for Spain in May with their daughter.

“I am so happy that Leopoldo Lopez can be with his family again, freely,” Maria Corina Machado, leader of another Venezuelan opposition party, wrote on Twitter.

Lopez’s relationship with his Spanish hosts was sporadic at times. After Lopez was granted access to the residence, Acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Spain would not allow its embassy in Caracas to be used as a center of opposition and would limit Lopez’s political activity.

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Borrell said that the Spanish government will not hand Lopez over to the Venezuelan authorities, but it will not grant him asylum because he will request it once in Spanish territory.

(Covering with Vivian Sekira, Maya Armas and Brian Ellsworth; written by Angus Berwick; edited by Daniel Wallis)

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