The opposition Leopoldo López leaves the Spanish embassy in Caracas and leaves Venezuela
The opposition leader and president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, confirmed through Twitter López’s departure from the country.
The prominent Venezuelan opponent Leopoldo López left the residence of the Spanish ambassador in Caracas on Saturday, where he had been a guest for 18 months and left Venezuela.
After various press reports, the also opposition leader and president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, confirmed through Twitter López’s departure from the country.
“By mocking your repressive apparatus (he directs his message to Nicolás Maduro), we managed to get our Commissioner for the Center of Government, Leopoldo López, into international territory,” he said.
“His contribution for Venezuela continues from this new space of action,” he added.
Hours earlier, various sources had confirmed to the EFE Agency and Reuters that López had left the diplomatic legation and left the country, while relatives told the AFP agency that he would be heading to Spain, something that Bloomberg also reports .
López remained in the diplomatic headquarters since he was released in April 2019 from his house arrest by a group of uniformed men led by Guaidó, who is recognized as the “interim president” of the country by fifty countries.
That same day, there were violent riots in Caracas and other cities in the country that followed Guaidó’s call for a civil and military mobilization to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro.
López was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 14 years in prison, accused of leading the violent acts in the anti-government marches that took place that year.
The announcement of his departure provoked mixed reactions on the social networks of Venezuela, among those who criticized his decision to leave the country and among those who celebrated that the fight against Maduro could continue from abroad.
In his message on Twitter, Guaidó affirmed that López’s departure sought to strengthen the opposition’s struggle at the international level.
“Internal pressure will be reinforced and strengthened by the work of those who represent us in different international spaces, displaying their maximum potential,” he wrote.
Hours earlier, López’s father had confirmed to the AFP agency that his son had left the Spanish embassy two days ago and was heading for Spain.
“He left the embassy of his own free will and left Venezuela secretly, clandestinely, through the border with Colombia, and he has already left,” said Leopoldo López Gil.
The departure of an opponent from the diplomatic headquarters coincides with the change of command in the Spanish embassy in Caracas, after the government of Pedro Sánchez announced that Ambassador Jesús Silva would be replaced by Juan Fernández Trigo, who previously headed the legation. Iberian in Cuba.
The Sánchez government, however, assured that the change of ambassador would not affect López’s position in the embassy.
The last message that the Venezuelan opponent published on his networks was last Thursday, when he congratulated the opposition in Belarus for receiving the Sakharov Prize, with which he was awarded in 2017.
Before his arrest, on February 18, 2014 – and even for a long time afterwards – López was the most visible face of Venezuela’s opposition and its most internationally recognized character.
At the time, a week was enough for him to become the symbol and de facto leader of the Venezuelan opposition.
It was seven days in February 2014 in which he became, through tweets and speeches, a leading figure among the swarm of opposition groups by raising his voice in the days of protests against the Maduro government.
The political leader has always defended that he promoted a peaceful protest within the framework of the Constitution, but at that time – as now – the Maduro government accused him of participating in a “coup attempt.”
And although the march in which he was arrested – on February 18, 2014, surrounded by thousands of his followers and with white carnations in his hands – was the last in which he personally participated, the protests lasted until the beginning of 2015, leaving a balance of 43 dead, 600 injured and more than 3,500 arrested.
In September 2015 López was sentenced to nearly 14 years in jail for public instigation, property damage, arson and conspiracy. A controversial sentence.
By then, however, he had already been behind bars in the Ramo Verde military prison for seven months .
And there he remained until August 2017, when he was granted a house by jail.
His wife, Lilian Tintori , was in charge of telling her husband’s story and defending his cause in different international forums.
And the prosecutor who accused him, Franklin Nieves , denounced years later political interference in the process.
All this contributed to López becoming considered the most famous political prisoner in Latin America and becoming the main reference for the Venezuelan opposition.
A great change for the man who in 2008, being mayor of the Chacao de Caracas municipality, had seen his political aspirations affected by his disqualification in a controversial process promoted by the Comptroller General’s Office.
That dependency prevented him at the time from running for mayor of Caracas, for which he looked like the favorite in the polls.
And although López remained politically active, his ascendant seemed to lose steam to the benefit of his former party partner and two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles , who eventually became one of the main opposition leaders.
The leader of the Popular Will party – which has been defined as a “progressive movement” with a social democratic tendency – had been a thorn in the government for several years.
He comes from a wealthy family related to business and the oil sector, he studied economics in the United States and a master’s degree in public policy at Harvard University.
He became prominent when at age 27 he was elected mayor of the Chacao de Caracas municipality , a position he held from 2000 until his disqualification eight years later, accused of embezzlement of public funds.
And, as the BBC journalist Irene Caselli explained at the time, by then he had already been seen for some time “as a ‘problem’, not only for the Venezuelan government (which still points to him as one of those responsible for the coup d’état 2002) but also for those who observe him from outside ”.
For example, in 2009, in classified documents leaked by WikiLeaks, the political advisor to the US embassy in Caracas, Robin D. Meyer, wrote that López had become a “divisive figure within the Venezuelan opposition.” .
“He is often described as arrogant, vindictive and hungry for power, but his fellow party members claim that he has enduring popularity, charisma and organizational talent,” the US diplomat wrote at the time.
With a divided opposition, however, his arrest led many critics of the Maduro government to identify with López and his strategy.
And the fact of surrendering at that time made him, in the opinion of David Smilde, an analyst at the Washington office for Latin American Affairs in Caracas, a “visible and attractive” figure and the leader – symbolic at least – of the opposition.
“If Leopoldo López is attacked by the government, the people will defend him,” said student leader Daniel Álvarez after the arrest of the opposition politician.
With greater or lesser intensity, sectors of the Venezuelan opposition maintained their support for the political leader throughout his arrest and his forced silence.
And his ascendancy was also confirmed with the election to the presidency of the National Assembly of his pupil Juan Guaidó when Popular Will had to preside over the legislative body , the only one in power of the opposition .