Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the Voluntad Popular (VP) opposition party whose sudden appearance on the streets of Caracas on April 30 sparked a failed insurrection, spoke to reporters today from the home of the Spanish ambassador in Caracas. Lopez has been staying in the ambassador’s home as a guest (meaning that he is not there as an asylum seeker) alongside his wife and daughter since Tuesday.
Lopez said that during the three weeks prior to his dramatic release from house arrest, he held meetings with police and military leaders with the goal of planning the end of the Maduro dictatorship. As a result, while the April 30 push to remove Maduro from office appears to have failed, Lopez said that:
What began on April 30 is irreversible.
Lopez told reporters that he was “optimistic” about the prospect of democracy returning to Venezuela in the short term, and that he would continue to work towards that goal. He also clarified that he was planning to stay in the home of the Spanish ambassador indefinitely.
We are not going to rest even for a minute, under no circumstance, during this challenge and this commitment… to bring about an end to the usurpation [of the presidency by Maduro].
Supreme Court Issues Arrest Warrant for Lopez
Lopez’s statement at the Spanish ambasador’s home came shortly after the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) issued an arrest warrant against him for violating the conditions of his house arrest.
After his arrest in 2014 over his role in spearheading the anti-government protests that rocked the country that year, Lopez was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison in 2015 in a trial that was universally condemned as a sham by human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch.
In July 2017, after serving more than three years at the Ramo Verde military prison, Lopez was granted house arrest.
Spain Says It Will Not Hand Lopez Over
The Spanish government issued a statement this afternoon that it has no intention of handing Lopez over to the Venezuelan authorities.
In the statement, the Spanish government says that it hopes that the Venezuelan authorities will “respect the inviolability of the residence of the Spanish ambassador”, and that it hopes that the impasse will reach a resolution shortly. The statement also says that Madrid hopes that its relationship with Caracas “will not be affected by the situation”, and that it was willing to help work towards a “democratic and peaceful” solution to the crisis in Venezuela.
On Lopez’s legal status and that of his wife and daughter, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said:
According to Spanish legislation, asylum requests must be made in Spanish territory. As a result, Mr. Lopez is not [in the ambassador’s home] as an asylum-seeker. He’s there simply as a guest of the embassy…
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