Spain recognizes Maduro victory in Venezuela

Spain has recognized the Venezuelan authorities' decision to confirm Nicolas Maduro as the winner of Venezuela's tight presidential election after initially expressing doubts over the outcome of the vote.

Spain recognizes Maduro victory in Venezuela
Venezuela's elected President Nicolas Maduro won the April 14th polls with 50.66 percent of the vote. Photo: Luis Acosta/AFP

"Now that the constitutional and legal procedures have ended, the government of Spain respects the National Election Board's proclamation of Nicolas Maduro as the president-elect of the Republic of Venezuela," the foreign ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Spain's Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo had initially declined to recognize Maduro, a former bus driver who became Hugo Chavez's protege, as the winner of Sunday's presidential election in the former Spanish colony, prompting an angry response from Caracas.

"Whatever the outcome, whatever the final verdict after the count, what it shows is that there is a very strong political polarization in Venezuela," he told reporters on Monday in Madrid's first reaction to the poll result.

Spain's position contrasted with that of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Russia which promptly congratulated Maduro.

"Be careful Spain, be careful because Venezuela is free because we achieved independence. Government of Spain, respect others to be respected," Maduro said in response to the Spanish foreign minister's comments.

In the election to replace leftist president Chavez, who died last month, his designated political heir Maduro on Sunday defeated Henrique Capriles by a tight 1.7 percent.

Capriles demanded a full recount, but Venezuela's National Electoral Board has declared Maduro the winner.

Violent protests over the outcome of the election swept parts of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities on Monday night after the board announced its decision.

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Spain refuses to hand over opposition figure to Venezuela

The Spanish government said Thursday it would not hand over Venezuelan opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez, who is wanted by authorities in Caracas but has taken refuge in Madrid's embassy in Caracas.

Spain refuses to hand over opposition figure to Venezuela
Photo: AFP

The government “does not envisage in any circumstances handing over Leopoldo Lopez to the Venezuelan authorities nor asking him to leave the ambassador's residence”, the Spanish foreign ministry said in a statement.   

Lopez emerged on Tuesday from two years of house arrest to join opposition leader Juan Guaido at a demonstration as the National Assembly president tried to incite a military uprising against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.   

Later that day, Lopez sought refuge in the Chilean embassy with his wife and daughter before moving to the Spanish embassy.   

Lopez was first arrested in 2014 and accused of inciting violent protests against the government. He was handed a nearly 14-year sentence in 2015 and then transferred to house arrest in 2017. 

Madrid published the statement following a meeting between the Spanish ambassador and Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.    

It said that Spain wanted to “find a solution as quickly as possible” but stressed that, under international law, diplomatic residences were inviolable.    

Lopez's wife Lilian Tintori claimed on Twitter on Wednesday that their house had been robbed and ransacked while they were away.   

In statements made at the Spanish ambassador's residence on Thursday, Lopez said that the attempted uprising was “part of a process — it's a crack that will become a bigger crack… that will end up breaking the dam.”

READ MORE: Spain insists fresh elections 'only way out' of Venezuela crisis