CARACAS – Venezuelan opposition leader Antonio Ledezma’s escape from house arrest this week and meeting on Saturday with Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy have provoked the ire of Venezuela’s leftist government, which accuses the former mayor of Caracas of being a violent extremist.
At the same time, some factions of the Venezuelan opposition expressed optimism about what Ledezma can achieve while in exile.
A statement by Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said the assistance Spain’s government is providing to Ledezma “is nothing more than the continuation of a long list of aggressions and interferences that have been committed against the Venezuelan people and government.”
The Spanish premier “insists, in violation of all the principles of international law, in providing sustained protection and support to an extremist group of the violent Venezuelan opposition, which has violated all democratic principles and promoted the destabilization of the government,” the statement read.
Ledezma, founder of the Fearless People’s Alliance (ABP) party, fled across the border to Colombia on Friday and arrived in Madrid on Saturday, where he was reunited with his wife and daughters.
He was arrested on Feb. 19, 2015, for allegedly plotting violence against the Nicolas Maduro-led Venezuelan government in connection with deadly street protests in 2014.
The politician, who said upon his arrival that Venezuela is being governed by a “narco-dictatorship,” was received Saturday by Rajoy at the Moncloa Palace.
At the meeting, Ledezma received assurances from Spain that its government would work toward a fully democratic solution to the political crisis in the Caribbean nation.
That solution, according to Spanish government sources, must necessarily involve the release of all “political” prisoners and the holding of fully “democratic” and “validated” elections.
Separately, the ABP reiterated on Saturday its repudiation of new talks between Venezuela’s government and some opposition parties due to begin on Dec. 1.
The foreign ministers of Mexico, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia and Nicaragua are to accompany the talks, which also will feature the participation of Dominican President Danilo Medina.
“We don’t want anything to do with any dialogue that has not delivered positive results for Venezuela,” lawmaker and acting chairman of the ABP Richard Blanco said.
He added, however, that Ledezma now would be free to organize a large-scale national and international movement that would enable “democracy to be restored as quickly as possible in (the form of) a transitional government in Venezuela.”
Maduro’s opponents have suffered major blows in recent months.
The unicameral opposition-controlled National Assembly has been sidelined by a recently installed plenipotentiary National Constituent Assembly, an unconstitutional body made up exclusively of Maduro’s allies.
The opposition then stumbled in fraudulent regional elections last month, when Maduro’s allies were awarded with the vast majority of governor’s offices (18 out of 23) by the National Electoral Council (CNE) amid the oil-rich nation’s political turmoil and a severe economic crisis exemplified by runaway inflation and shortages of medicine and basic foodstuffs.