Fugitive opposition figure Antonio Ledezma is now in Madrid, Spain where he is expected to reside following a daring escape from regime custody that saw him sneak into Colombia yesterday overnight. Ledezma heads the Alianza Bravo Pueblo (ABP) party, and was mayor of Caracas when he was arrested for allegedly conspiring against the government in February 2015. Ledezma spent 1,002 days in custody before escaping yesterday.
Ledezma was held in pre-trial detention–first in the Ramo Verde military prison and then in his home under strict conditions–as the start of his trial was deferred over a dozen times.
Upon stepping out of his airplane in Madrid, Ledezma was greeted by a crowd of supporters that included his wife, Mitzy Capriles, and his two daughters. His first words to journalists were:
I feel free in Spain.
The image below shows Ledezma being embraced by his wife Mitzy in the Madrid airport last night:
In the image below, Ledezma and Mitzy are surrounded by Venezuelans who went to the airport to greet him:
Vanessa Ledezma, one of his daughters, posted the following image on Twitter earlier today:
In the name of my family, I want to thank from the very bottom of my heart all of those who have supported us during these years of struggle for the FREEDOM of my father Antonio Ledezma. Now he will begin the new stage of his struggle. Thank you!!
Ledezma also hinted at his plans for the future now that he is free of the Maduro regime’s persecution. He said:
I am going to dedicate myself to traveling around the world to contribute in my exile to create an extension of the hope of Venezuelans to find a way out of this regime.
Ledezma managed to evade the authorities during the overnight hours on Friday and escape his home in Caracas, where he had been serving house arrest for more than two years. He provided a brief description of his impression of the Venezuela that he saw out of the car window as he sped to the Colombian border:
When I left my home after spending more than one thousand days unjustly imprisoned, I couldn’t fight back the tears after seeing young girls and women looking for food in garbage cans. We’re talking about the country that has the largest oil reserves in the country, and of a government that was wasted an immense fortune, which has stolen more than 600,000 billion dollars.
Ledezma Meets Rajoy
Shortly after his arrival in Spain, Ledezma met with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the Palace of Moncloa in Madrid.
Below, an image of the meeting:
I had a conversation for an hour and a half in the [Palace of] Moncloa with [Mariano Rajoy], who stressed his support for the struggle for liberty in Venezuela. I asked him to head a search for humanitarian aid to be administered by churches in Venezuela.
El Universal reports that Rajoy committed to continue to work towards finding a democratic solution to the Venezuelan crisis, and to aid in the liberation of all other political prisoners in the country.
Prominent Human Rights Lawyer and Opposition Deputy Clash
Tamara Suju, a prominent human rights lawyer, lashed out at National Assembly deputy Luis Florido after he apparently offered to remove her from a list of exiled Venezuelans as part of a political move alongside the PSUV. Suju posted the message on her social media accounts, setting off a firestorm related to Florido’s leading role in the opposition/regime dialogue.
Yesterday afternoon, Suju received a message from Florido in which he nonchalantly asked her if she wanted to remain “on the list of exiles”, or if she would preferred to be removed. Suju expressed her “outrage” at the message, which she interpreted as clear evidence that Florido intends to negotiate the lives of political prisoners and other regime victims for political gain during a set of controversial negotiations that are scheduled to take place with the PSUV on December 1 and 2.
Yesterday afternoon, Suju a screenshot of Florido’s message, which reads:
Even though you attack me on a daily basis
I want to ask you if you want us to keep you on the list of exiles or should we remove you?
I’m asking because we’re surely going to hand in a list on [December] 1 and 2
Suju accompanied the screenshot with two tweets, in which she said the following:
1/2 This is the text message that I received today from [Luis Florido]. It is outrageous, and a clear descriptor of this “political caste” which believes that it represents us, and that prisoners, the persecuted and the exiled are pawns in a negotiation. I have NOT asked anyone to negotiate my rights with those criminals with whom they are going to sit down.
Suju followed up the first message with a second, in which she posted an image of her Czech passport and lashed out at Florido for his willingness to negotiate with a dictatorial regime:
2/2 I have this passport, [Luis Florido], because I have spent 17 years calling out this criminal regime, and despite what it signifies I’d rather have it than betray my compatriots in the Dominican Republic, negotiating with the nonnegotiable rights in the Constitution.
Florido has been at the forefront of an effort by the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica [MUD] to negotiate with the Maduro regime, a move that large sections of the Venezuelan opposition consider unpalatable given the ruthless brutality of the regime.
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