Latin America

Opposition groups close ranks to support jailed Caracas mayor

Parties join call for a national transition and early presidential elections in Venezuela

From left: Copei president Roberto Enríquez, María Corina Machado, Mitzy Capriles and Lilian Tintori.
From left: Copei president Roberto Enríquez, María Corina Machado, Mitzy Capriles and Lilian Tintori.M. G. (EFE)

After months of internal divisions, Venezuela’s opposition parties agreed to close ranks on Monday in support of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma who was arrested by the government last week on coup conspiracy charges.

At the same time, the center-right Christian democrat Copei Party publicly put its name to the controversial manifesto calling for a national transition of power and early elections – a document President Nicolás Maduro has described as a coup declaration. Copei was one of two political forces that dominated Venezuelan politics from 1958 to 1998.

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The open letter, which was published on February 11 in the Caracas daily El Nacional, had been signed by Ledezma and two other major opposition leaders, Leopoldo López, who is also in prison, and María Corina Machado, a former National Assembly deputy who has been charged in an assassination plot but not been arrested.

Machado, along with Mitzy Capriles and Lilian Tintori – the respective wives of Ledezma and López – was present at the ceremony at which Copei president Roberto Enríquez put his signature on the manifesto.

President Nicolás Maduro said the statement was an element in a coup plot hatched by the opposition and orchestrated from Bogota, Miami and Madrid.

Democratic Action (AD) – the other party that shared power with Copei for four decades following the overthrow of the Marcos Pérez Jiménez dictatorship in 1958 – rejected the allegations made by Maduro.

More than half of Venezuela’s mayors are under investigation by the government, Ramos said

“There is not one hint of a coup anywhere in the ink of this document,” said Henry Ramos Allup, AD secretary general, who served as the opposition’s spokesman at the public signing ceremony.

More than half of Venezuela’s mayors are under government investigation, Ramos said.

Opposition parties who formed a unity coalition known as MUD have been divided over certain electoral strategies as they face the race for seats in the National Assembly that will be held later this year. Some groups want to continue with street protests while others want to capitalize on the painful economic situation facing many Venezuelans to win votes.

Machado thanked the “brave” gesture by Copei and other politicians who have also signed the manifesto, including Luis Miquilena, who was considered the mentor and political godfather of late President Hugo Chávez.

The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy called the arrest “a source of alarm”

The situation in Venezuela has been tense since Ledezma’s arrest on Thursday. Thousands gathered in a square in Caracas the day after his detention to demand his release. Spain, the United States and other countries have expressed their concern over the imprisonment.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy called the arrest “a source of alarm.”

The 59-year-old Ledezma was taken to the Ramo Verde prison outside of Caracas, the same facility where López is currently being held as his closed-door trial on sedition charges continues.

Capriles told journalists that her husband would not ask their son-in-law, Tourism Minister Andrés Izarra, to intervene in Ledezma’s case. “My dear son-in-law Andrés Izarra stepped down from his government post the day before yesterday. Those who understand need no explanation.”

The Venezuelan government has not announced Izarra’s resignation.

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