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VENEZUELA

Spain insists fresh elections ‘only way out’ of Venezuela crisis

Spain on Thursday said fresh elections were the "only way out" for Venezuela after opposition leader Juan Guaido claimed the presidency amid anti-government protests.

Spain insists fresh elections 'only way out' of Venezuela crisis
Venezuelan citizens demonstrate against President Nicolas Maduro on January 13, 2019 in Madrid.

“The scenario has changed radically, there have been deaths. We have to prevent the situation from worsening. This undoubtedly demands a process of intervention to guarantee the only way out which is elections,” said Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell.

The United States, Brazil and other countries on Wednesday endorsed Guaido's declaration in repudiation of President Nicolas Maduro, as more protests rocked the economically strapped country.

Guaido's announcement came amid violence that has killed at least 13 people this week, according to a toll by the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict.

When asked if Spain would also endorse Guaido's declaration, Borrell reiterated that “what is important” is that Venezuela hold fresh elections.   

He said some 200,000 Spanish nationals live in Venezuela, a former Spanish colony.

VENEZUELA

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

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