Spanish ex-PM arrives in Venezuela to support jailed leaders

Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez arrives in Caracas to support opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez has arrived in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, where he plans to lend his support to the lawyers of two jailed opposition leaders.

Gonzalez flew from Colombia to Venezuela on Sunday and was greeted by family members of Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma.

Lopez, 44, a former Caracas district mayor from the opposition Popular Will Party (VP) is currently on a hunger strike. He was arrested after protests broke out in Venezuela in early 2014 during which 43 people died and hundreds were wounded.

Ledezma, 60, who founded the political party the Fearless People's Alliance (ABP), was detained in February while he was serving as the mayor of Caracas on charges of plotting a coup against the socialist government led by Nicolas Maduro. He is currently under house arrest and denies the charges against him.

Lopez and Ledezma are considered to be Venezuela’s highest-profile political prisoners by human rights groups and critics of the Maduro administration, the Guardian reports.

In a video leaked from jail on May 23, Lopez calls Venezuela’s government corrupt and incompetent and blames the country’s authorities for the deaths that occurred during the 2014 protests.

Gonzalez was declared a “persona non grata” by Maduro after announcing he would advise Lopez and his supporters.

Gonzalez is the longtime head of the Socialist Workers’ Party, and led Spain as its prime minister from 1982 to 1996.

Andres Pastrana and Jorge Quiroga, former presidents of Colombia and Bolivia respectively, have also offered their support to the imprisoned political prisoners.

The two former leaders wanted to visit three jailed opposition leaders - Lopez, Ledezma and Daniel Ceballos - during a visit to Venezuela in late May.

Ceballos, 31, the mayor of San Cristobal from the Popular Will Party (VP) has been under arrest since March. He was transferred from Ramo Verde military prison, where he was being held with Lopez, to a civilian jail in the state of Guarico in May.

Pastrana and Quiroga attempted to see Lopez at Ramo Verde and Ceballos at 26 de Julio prison - located in Venezuela’s central state of Guarico - on May 29, but did not succeed.

TRTWorld and agencies