Hundreds of Venezuelans stage pro-Guaidó rally in Madrid

Hundreds of Venezuelans rallied in central Madrid late Tuesday in support of their country's self-proclaimed leader Juan Guaidó, as riots broke out in faraway Caracas.

Hundreds of Venezuelans stage pro-Guaidó rally in Madrid
Photo: AFP

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his government have vowed to put down what they see as an attempted coup by the US-based opposition leader.

But as police fired tear gas at the crowds in Caracas, around 300 people gathered in the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid in support of the 35-year-old National Assembly leader, waving Venezuelan flags and brandishing banners with slogans such as “Maduro is destroying Venezuela”.

“This isn't a state coup,” a former mayor of Caracas and opposition politician, Antonio Ledezma, told the small crowd in the Spanish capital, which included Venezuelan opposition figures, as well as officials from Spain's conservative Popular Party and centre-right Ciudadanos.

A spokeswoman for the Spanish government had earlier said Madrid “strongly hope(d) that there will be no bloodshed” in Venezuela.

Spokeswoman Isabel Celaa called for “democratic elections” and said Madrid supports a “peaceful” outcome to the Venezuela crisis.

Spain has thrown its support behind Guaidó, whom it recognises as interim leader of economically-strapped Venezuela over President Nicolas Maduro.

Separately, Air France on Tuesday said that a passenger plane en route to Caracas was returned to Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport due to “events in Venezuela”.

“After analysing the situation, it was decided that flight AF368 should return to Paris-Charles de Gaulle,” said an airline spokesman, adding that it was “monitoring the situation in real time” and would inform passengers of any future flight changes.

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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