The Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López appeared in Madrid this Tuesday, in his first public appearance after leaving Venezuela last Saturday, to emphasize that he never wanted to leave his country and that his intention, like that of all exiles, is to "return to liberate Venezuela ”. López has described the government of Nicolás Maduro, whom he has called a “criminal”, a “dictatorship”. His appearance at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid has brought together dozens of journalists in person, in the midst of the pandemic. The expectation was no wonder: it was the first time since 2014 that the dissident addressed the press.
Under a banner from the Government Center of Juan Guaidó —the interim president recognized by some 60 countries— and flanked by a Venezuelan flag, the opposition leader has been accompanied by his father, Leopoldo López Gil, a PP MEP; his wife, Lilian Tintori; and his sons. López began his remarks by thanking "God, the Spanish and the Government of Pedro Sánchez" for their freedom. “I did not want to leave Venezuela. Circumstances have led me to it. I pick up the words of Rómulo Betancourt [former president of his country]: We will return. Venezuelans in exile are going to return to Venezuela ”.
López, who has not wanted to give information about his departure from the country, although he has denied any kind of pact between the Spanish and Venezuelan governments for his freedom, has barely provided details about his bizarre adventure to leave Venezuela, although he has specified that he traveled in a commercial flight, not a private one. As an explanation for his discreet arrival at Madrid airport, he pointed out that it was a surprise for his children: “I arrived by commercial plane, I asked that they could take me out discreetly; what I was most excited about was giving my children a surprise ”.
What López has done during his extensive appearance before the media is to reel off his plans for his new political stage as presidential commissioner for the Center of the Government of Guaidó: “Promote that in Venezuela a free, fair, verifiable presidential election can take place; make those responsible for human rights violations subject to international justice and seek all mechanisms to alleviate the suffering of our people, guarantee humanitarian and economic aid in one of the deepest crises on the planet ”.
A López in good shape, dressed in a suit and blue tie, has closed ranks with Juan Guaidó, has spoken of unity and has confirmed to continue the fight. “We fall and we get up; he who gets tired loses ”. To questions from this newspaper about the horizon of the opposition to the Maduro regime, he has left no room for doubt: “I want to tell you, for the tranquility of Venezuelans, that Guaidó is going to stay in Venezuela, and is willing to go to prison plus". However, His departure from the Latin American country puts the plans of the party bloc on hold that seeks to force the resignation of Maduro and opens an uncertain scenario regarding the leadership of the opposition front, which is increasingly fragmented. Juan Guaidó announced days ago that he will not attend the legislative elections on December 6, considering that there are not enough democratic guarantees, and that instead he will call an alternative popular consultation to those elections – also questioned by the European Union – the December 12th. That initiative has been confirmed by López.
The former political prisoner, who has said that he will reside in the capital of Spain as another exile, has announced that as soon as the coronavirus allows him, he will begin an international tour to gather support for the cause. He assured that President Sánchez, with whom he met yesterday afternoon at the headquarters of the PSOE, has agreed to describe Maduro as a dictator and stressed: "No one is going to recognize the results of the elections." In a veiled allusion to Podemos, a coalition partner of the Spanish Government, López stated: “Those who do not fully understand that whoever murders, imprisons and represses is a dictator like Maduro must review their own concept of democracy and human rights . We are not going to shut up ”.
López arrived in Madrid last Sunday to meet his family on a flight from Miami, with a false identification, since he only had a photocopy of his ID. His odyssey began traveling by land from the Venezuelan capital to the country's coast, from where he moved by sea to the Dutch island of Aruba and from there on regular flights to the Spanish capital.
The flight of López, welcomed in the Spanish Embassy in Caracas since on April 30, 2019, he broke the house arrest to which he was subjected to participate in a failed uprising against Maduro has ended in Spain. The Chavista regime accused the current Spanish ambassador, Jesús Silva, who was relieved of his position a month ago and will soon be replaced, of organizing the flight "of the criminal Leopoldo López" and the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, said in a statement that Madrid had violated the Vienna Convention. However, the reaction from Caracas this time has been much less vocal than in past diplomatic incidents between the two countries. The Spanish Executive, for its part, limited itself to ensuring that the departure of the opposition leader was due to "a personal and voluntary decision."
The Chavista regime, which held seven employees of the Spanish Embassy for a few hours, has retaliated against López's family environment. A relative of his older sister, Diana, was arrested today – and released hours later – by the Bolivarian police. An apartment on his sister's beach has also been searched.
López, founder of the Voluntad Popular party, spent three years in the Ramo Verde military prison, of the 14 he was sentenced to for his participation in the wave of protests against the Maduro regime, between February and March 2014, in the 43 people died and 3,000 were injured.
After his escape, he is already part of the Venezuelan diaspora in Madrid, where other opponents reside, such as Antonio Ledezma, who was the metropolitan mayor of Caracas. The Spanish capital has long since become, along with Bogotá and Miami, one of the main poles of Venezuelan dissidence.