LATIN AMERICA

Ex-PM Felipe González leaves Venezuela after just two days

Veteran Socialist was not granted authorization to visit imprisoned opposition politician

González (l) with journalist Teodoro Petkoff in Caracas.
González (l) with journalist Teodoro Petkoff in Caracas.Saúl Uzcátegui / EFE

Felipe González, the former prime minister of Spain, has left Venezuela barely two days after his arrival, given that the government of the South American country has refused to grant him permission to visit imprisoned opposition politician Leopoldo López in the Ramo Verde jail.

The veteran Socialist politician, who was in power from 1982 to 1996, was also stopped by the Venezuelan authorities from attending López’s scheduled court hearing on Wednesday.

González had traveled to the country with the aim of providing legal support to López and other opposition politicians, such as Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, who is under house arrest having been accused of forming part of a coup plot.

González had traveled to the country with the aim of providing legal support to opposition politicians

The announcement that González had returned to Bogotá, Colombia – from where he had arrived in Caracas on Sunday – was made by Ledezma’s lawyer.

After he announced his intentions to travel to Venezuela, the government of President Nicolás Maduro declared González persona non grata. What’s more, Maduro himself warned the Socialist politician against meddling in domestic affairs. Via his Twitter account, the Venezuelan leader wrote this weekend: “The Bogota-Madrid-Miami connection is acting with desperation by sending over personalities to legitimize its war against Venezuela. They want to mess with the homeland.”

López and jailed San Cristóbal mayor Daniel Ceballos, who are both on hunger strike at the prisons where they are being held, were charged in connection to the February 2014 anti-government protests, at which at least 40 people died and many more were injured.

On Monday, the former prime minister met with members of  MUD, a coalition of opposition parties

Ceballos was specifically accused of not following government orders to remove protestors’ barricades, which were set up in the streets of San Cristóbal, a city in Venezuela’s southwestern Táchira state, near the Colombian border.

After several frustrated attempts to make the journey, González finally arrived in Caracas on Sunday, and headed directly to the López family residence, where he met with family members and lawyers for the now-jailed former mayor of the Caracas suburb of Chacao.

After the meeting he told reporters that “Venezuela needed a lot of dialogue,” adding that he thought it was a “good gesture” on President Nicolás Maduro’s part to hold regional and parliamentary elections in the country this year.

On Monday, the former prime minister met with members of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a coalition of opposition parties, with the aim of analyzing the political situation in Venezuela ahead of possible elections later this year.

After his meeting with MUD, González went to the home of TalCual editor Teodoro Petkoff to deliver the Ortega y Gasset Journalism Prize awarded to him last month by EL PAÍS. The 83-year-old former Marxist guerrilla has been prohibited from leaving the country after several government officials filed defamation and libel suits against him for his news coverage.