Ex-PM Felipe González aims to fly to see Venezuelan dissidents on Monday

Former Spanish leader has offered legal assistance to jailed politicians López and Ledezma President Nicolás Maduro warns that he is not welcome in the country

Silvia Ayuso
Washington -
Former Spanish leader Felipe González will try to fly to Venezuela on Monday.
Former Spanish leader Felipe González will try to fly to Venezuela on Monday.J. C. H. (EFE)

Former Spanish prime minister Felipe González has said he has already booked a seat to fly to Venezuela on Monday, where he plans to provide legal defense for jailed political dissidents Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma.

“I am forging ahead with all possible plans. If I can go, I will go, and if I can’t, I’ll postpone it, or travel at a different time,” González said in Washington on Thursday evening.

The longest-serving prime minister in Spanish democratic history (1982-1996), González has remained active in global politics and traveled to Washington to participate in the 2015 Democracy Award, which was given to López and Ledezma by the National Endowment for Democracy.

 I think that genetically I am better prepared to handle a struggle against a dictatorship than to handle the loss of a democracy set to become a dictatorship”

Felipe González

The awards were accepted by the wives of the two political prisoners, Lilian Tintori and Mitzy Capriles.

González, who is a lawyer by trade, has already been warned by the Venezuelan government that “he is not considered welcome” and that it would “not provide any support” if he chooses to fly there.

The Nicolás Maduro administration warned that any actions undertaken by González in Caracas would “fall under his complete responsibility,” news agency Efe reports.

In a press statement, González also revealed that López’s court hearing, which he was planning to attend next week, has been postponed to June, a fact that could alter his plans.

President Nicolás Maduro says González is not welcome in Venezuela.
President Nicolás Maduro says González is not welcome in Venezuela.EFE

In mid-April, the Venezuelan National Assembly declared González “persona non grata,” banning him from entering the country because of his public support for political prisoners. The decision, however, is not binding.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has also accused González – as well as current Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy – of being part of an international conspiracy to overthrow his government.

“I have not asked authorities for their support,” said González, adding that he is offering to help López and Ledezma “out of personal conviction and principles.”

“I spent half of my own life in a dictatorship, and the other half in a democracy. I think that genetically I am better prepared to handle a struggle against a dictatorship than to handle the loss of a democracy set to become a dictatorship,” he said at the awards ceremony.

“The government of Venezuela can prevent me from participating in their defense within Venezuela, but it cannot prevent me from participating in their defense altogether,” he added. “The world of liberties, of democracy and of human rights goes far beyond the Venezuelan borders, and Venezuela is bound to them.”

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On March 23, González told EL PAÍS that he would defend opposition leaders Leopoldo López and Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, who are both being held in a military prison outside Caracas, because he was concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in the Latin American country.

López, 42, is on trial after he was jailed in February 2014 on conspiracy and sedition charges in connection with violent anti-government protests, in which more than 40 people were killed across Venezuela.

Ledezma, a top leader of the Democratic Action (AD) party, was arrested in February after he signed a public petition calling for Maduro’s resignation and new elections.

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