Opposition activist López flees Venezuela, destined for Spain

Caracas, Oct 24 (efe-epa).- Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López on Saturday fled his Caracas haven and the country, and is destined for Spain, his father told EFE.

The 49-year-old had been staying at Spanish Ambassador Jesús Silva’s residence in the Venezuelan capital since Apr. 30, 2019, after an attempted uprising against the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

López left “to international territory to promote new actions in the fight for the freedom of Venezuela,” his Popular Will party announced on Twitter, adding that the decision was made considering what is “best for the country and the fight for Venezuela’s freedom.”

López later said in tweets that leaving “had not been an easy decision” to make, but that under the leadership of Juan Guaidó, recognized as interim president by more than 50 countries, and “in coordination with the National Assembly, the democratic unit and international allies of our struggle, we are sure that Venezuela will be free and democratic.”

“We will not rest and we will continue working day and night to achieve the freedom that all Venezuelans deserve,” he said.

So far, it is not known where López currently is or how he left the ambassador’s residence, nor the route he took in his departure.

According to the opposition activist’s father, also named Leopoldo López, the journey began on Friday, although it was only made public Saturday amid rumors and speculation about how López had left Venezuela despite strict surveillance of the diplomatic residence by state security forces and numerous police checkpoints throughout the country.

López, who was arrested in 2014 in Caracas and sentenced to 14 years in prison, accused of leading violent acts in the anti-government marches that took place that year, left the Caribbean country of “his own will,” his father said.

The opposition leader left Venezuela through a “clandestine route” to the Colombian border, although his father said he was no longer in that country, without specifying his current location due to security concerns, but assured he would “soon” be in Spain.

López served an almost three-year sentence in a military jail and subsequently went under house arrest until his release by members of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) in April 2019.

On April 30, 2019, López joined Guaidó in a failed and fleeting attempt at rebellion in which only 30 soldiers participated, and later moved into the Spanish ambassador’s residence.

After his departure from Venezuela, speculation – especially about the route and the support that he had, among which the government itself is considered an option – has abounded.

The politician’s parents, who reside in Madrid, have had Spanish nationality since December 2015, then granted by the government of conservative Mariano Rajoy. Leopoldo López senior is currently a member of the European Parliament for Spain’s opposition Popular Party.

Guaidó, who was taking part in an activity of the opposition when López’s departure was made public, spoke out later on Twitter.

“Maduro you don’t control anything. By evading your repressive apparatus, we managed to get (López) to international territory,” Guaidó wrote about his political mentor.

Guaidó also said that López’ “contribution for Venezuela continues from this new space of action.”

“Venezuela needs the maximum support of the world. Internal pressure will be reinforced and strengthened by the work of those who represent us in the different international spaces, displaying their maximum potential,” he said.

For the Venezuelan justice department, López has been a fugitive since the day he abandoned house arrest, and Sebin patrols have constantly surrounded the residence of the Spanish ambassador since the politician settled there.

These same patrols multiplied Saturday at the building, located in a wealthy area of Caracas.

However, so far there have been no statements from members of Maduro’s government or from the judicial authorities, who will have to determine whether to request the extradition of López to the country he settles in. EFE-EPA

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