National Assembly president Julio Borges was in Strasbourg, France today alongside other opposition figures to formally accept the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament on behalf of the Venezuelan opposition.

The prize–which is named after Russian human rights activist Andrei Sakharov–is awarded to individuals and organizations who work for the advancement of human rights. Previous recipients of the prize include Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, and Kofi Annan.

Upon receiving the prize, Borges thanked the nations of Europe for their support for the struggle against the Maduro regime. Borges said:

Today, we Venezuelans must thank Europe for extending their hand during the darkest hours of our history as a republic.

Antonio Ledezma, the former mayor of Caracas and noted exile, was also at today’s ceremony. During his time at the podium, Ledezma said that he hoped that the recognition would inspire the opposition to continue to fight against the regime. Ledezma said:

This award strengthens us. It gives us the energy to continue to fight for the democratic values and principles that we share with you.

At the same time, Ledezma lamented the fact that while he is fortunate enough to have escaped the regime, many others continue to languish in its jaws. He said:

I cannot be happy accepting this award knowing that there are more than 300 political prisoners in Venezuelan dungeons.

Ledezma’s speech took a more emotional tone when he referenced the case of Franklin Brito, a Venezuelan activist who died during a hunger strike in 2010 while protesting the expropriation of his land by the Chavez government, and that of the shield-bearers who protested against the Maduro regime throughout the summer. Ledezma said:

[I wish that we could] turn this award into flowers so we could place them at the grave of Franklin Brito, who died during a hunger strike defending land that had been invaded, and on the graves of the young shield-bearers who shed blood fighting for democracy.

National Assembly deputy Lester Toledo was also at the award ceremony. Toledo has been living in exile for over a year. Toledo said that the award was proof that the country’s opposition forces “are not alone” and that their fight “is not in vain”. Toledo also said:

I hope that this shout for freedom will be heard in Miraflores [Presidential Palace]. I hope that it is heard in every [Venezuelan] courtroom, and that this shout for freedom reaches into the hearts of every judge and prosecutor, and that my brothers who are political prisoners may be freed soon.

Below, images of the Venezuelan delegation receiving the Sakharov Prize earlier today:

Former Mayor, Political Prisoner Escapes to Colombia

Delson Guarate, the former mayor of the Mario Briceño Iragorry municipality in Aragua state, fled into Colombia some time today to escape political repression by the Maduro regime. He is the fourth high-profile regime opponent to flee the country since August, following former attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz, former El Hatillo mayor David Smolansky, and former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma.

Guarate was arrested last September on unsubstantiated and vague charges, and spent a year in prison while his case sat idle in the courts. He was released under strict conditions on November 4.

In a message posted on social media, Guarate said that he left Venezuela after becoming aware that the Maduro regime was getting ready to send him back to prison. Guarate said:

From Colombia, I want to tell Venezuelans that I had to leave the country by foot in order to defend our homeland. I already handed myself over [to the authorities] once believing in the Venezuelan justice system, and we realized then that the rule of law does not exist.

Guarate also vowed to raise awareness about the situation in Venezuela from outside the country.

Guarate has already met with David Smolansky, who fled regime persecution on September 13. Below, the image:

I am with [Delson Guarate] in the Colombian Congress. In a few minutes we will speak before the Chamber of Representatives. Delson had been arrested, shot at last weekend, and now he is a mayor in exile.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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