Leopoldo Lopez: I will return to liberate Venezuela
By Alida Juliani
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (l) welcomes Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez (r) at the seat of the Spanish Socialist Party in Madrid on Oct. 26, 2020. EFE-EPA/Inma Mesa/PSOE
Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez speaks with reporters at a Madrid press conference on Oct. 26, 2020, after leaving Venezuela clandestinely on the weekend. EFE-EPA/Mariscal
By Alida Juliani
Madrid, Oct 27 (efe-epa).- Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez said Tuesday in Madrid that he never wanted to leave his homeland and that he intends to "return to liberate Venezuela," although meanwhile, and from "exile," he will work to seek "freedom, alleviate the food crisis and seek justice for the murders" committed by the Nicolas Maduro regime.
Those are the three objectives that Lopez set forth Tuesday in the Spanish capital at a press conference at which he was accompanied by his family and representatives of the Venezuelan opposition in Spain.
Lopez arrived last Sunday in Madrid after leaving the Spanish ambassador's residence in Caracas, where he had been staying as a "guest" since April 30, 2019, and then leaving his country in a "clandestine" manner across the Colombian border.
"I've always said I did not want to leave Venezuela, (but) unfortunately circumstances led me to this," the opposition leader said, calling the Maduro government a "dictatorship."
"We Venezuelans who are in exile are going to return to liberate Venezuela and build a better country. We're completely convinced that Venezuela will be free," he said.
Lopez went on to say that "today nobody has any doubt that Maduro is a criminal, a murderer, he heads a structure that has looted and continues to loot the national territory and the wealth of Venezuelans and that he's our responsibility, but also that of the free world, of democratic leaders and peoples who believe in freedom and democracy."
"Venezuela is going to be free, not thanks to foreign agents, but rather by the internal force of Venezuelans in coordination with the free world," he said.
"Nowadays," he said, "thanks to the work of many Venezuelan leaders it's clear that Venezuela is a dictatorship and Maduro is a criminal," Lopez said, adding that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights considers the country's president to be "cruel, repressive and a murderer."
Lopez had been staying at the Spanish envoy's residence since he left house arrest to join an attempted military uprising against Maduro that ultimately failed.
At the Madrid press conference, Lopez thanked God and the Spanish government for making it possible for him to leave Venezuela, referring to opposition leader Juan Guaido as the "legitimate president of Venezuela."
"From here I'm going to be able to contribute as part of a team that Juan Guaido leads, and I'm sure that we're going to contribute a lot from outside," Lopez said, calling himself a "victim" and saying that "all victims deserve justice."
"Europe cannot turn its back, and neither can the United States" on a regime that, according to the UN, has committed "crimes against humanity, Lopez said, thanking the European Union for the support it has given to Guaido and to the cause "of Venezuelan freedom."
He also thanked "the countries of the region who have been with us in the struggle in recent years to obtain our freedom and my brothers in struggle who are in Venezuela. Above all, to the Venezuelan people, brothers and sisters who are suffering greatly."
Lopez, who refused to provide any details about his exit from the country "to protect the integrity of those who helped me and those who might want to leave in the same way," said that Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez views Maduro as "a dictator" and is firmly in favor of free and democratic elections in the South American country.
"Sanchez's position is clearly that Maduro is a dictator" and that "there must be free and democratic elections in Venezuela," Lopez said, having been received by Sanchez shortly before the press conference in his capacity as general secretary of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) at the party headquarters, and not at Moncloa Palace in his capacity as premier.
Lopez emphasized that his meeting with Sanchez was "very cordial and positive."
The Spanish government, Lopez said, "is not going to recognize the (Dec. 6 legislative) elections in Venezuela, which the European Union has requested not be held."
Lopez said he was convinced that "Spain's and Europe's position will be the same as in 2018, when the elections were not recognized," adding that "the Venezuelan cause must be supported by those who believe in liberty, democracy and human rights."
About Spain's envoy to Venezuela, Jesus Silva Fernandez, Lopez said that "he is a great diplomat who has very firmly represented the policy of his country, yet understanding the firmness he had to have with the Venezuelan cause."
In that regard, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said Tuesday that Lopez was a "guest of the embassy" of Spain in Caracas, free to leave whenever he wanted because "a guest is not a hostage."
Gonzalez Laya said that it was Lopez's decision to leave the Spanish embassy in Caracas and travel to Madrid to reunite with his family on Sunday, a move that sparked criticism from the Maduro government, which arrested several embassy workers and staged several raids on the homes of personnel assigned to the diplomatic delegation.
"Mr. Lopez was a guest of the embassy of Spain in Caracas and a guest is not a hostage. A guest is someone who is there, arrives, remains and can leave when he decides, and he has been in this case. He left the embassy according to his own wishes," the minister said when questioned on the subject by reporters.