Venezuela slams Spain over police gear ban

The government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, after more than two months of street protests, slammed Spain on Sunday for claiming it was not seeking dialogue with political foes.

Venezuela slams Spain over police gear ban
Madrid has suspended exports of anti-riot and police gear to its former colony of Venezuela. Carlos Becerra/Juan Barreto/AFP

Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo confirmed Saturday that Madrid has suspended exports of anti-riot and police gear to its former colony.

He said Spanish officials were in contact with Caracas "to try to re-establish a climate of reconciliation which has broken down."

He also said Spain was paying close attention to the fate of some 200,000 Spaniards in Venezuela.

Thirty-nine people have died in clashes between security forces and protesters angered by soaring crime, high inflation and shortages. Another 608 were wounded and 192 are going through the court process.

The conservative Spanish government's swipe at Venezuela's heavily state-led leftist government was not exactly welcomed.

Caracas "categorically rejects the unfortunate remarks" by Garcia-Margallo, "whose government has no moral authority to hand out advice on violence or dialogue when the world has seen how Spain's people have risen up to protest policies both exclusionary and in violation of human rights," a government statement said.

Venezuela said recession-hit Spain should "seek to promote dialogue with its different social groups who are seeking justice in Spain" as it says Maduro has done.

Caracas maintains it has used appropriate levels of force to protect civil institutions and its elected government.

Meanwhile, foreign ministers from the UNASUR grouping of South American nations were arriving in Caracas in a bid to foster dialogue with political foes who have so far declined Maduro's offer to sit down for talks.

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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