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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Spain ambassador to Venezuela recalled

Spain recalled its ambassador to Caracas on Wednesday after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro accused Madrid of "terrorism", as a row between the two countries intensified.

Spain ambassador to Venezuela recalled
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Photo: AFP

"Given the level of verbal irritation that I have seen from president Maduro, I have decided to recall our ambassador to Caracas for consultation," said Foreign Minister José Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

"The adjectives used by the authorities – never by the Venezuelan people – are absolutely intolerable," he added.

Maduro accused the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of "supporting terrorism" in Venezuela and of being behind "an international conspiracy to overthrow the government".

He said Rajoy belongs to a "group of corrupt (leaders), bandits and thieves".

Spain and Venezuela summoned each other's ambassadors April 15th as accusations flew back and forth across the Atlantic of a Venezuelan opposition crackdown and Spanish "racism" and "meddling".

The spat erupted after Spanish lawmakers passed a motion on April 14th calling on Venezuela, a former colony of Spain, to release jailed opposition leaders.

Maduro condemned the measure as "an act of aggression by corrupt Spanish elites" and called Rajoy "a racist".

Tensions rose over Spain's support for jailed opposition figures Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Caracas, and Leopoldo Lopez, a political leader.

Lopez is accused of playing a role in the student demonstrations against the government that left 43 people dead last year.