LATIN AMERICA

Parents of jailed Venezuelan dissident granted Spanish citizenship

Government hopes to protect mother and father of opposition leader Leopoldo López

The father of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López celebrates the results of the country’s legislative elections in Madrid on Sunday.
The father of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López celebrates the results of the country’s legislative elections in Madrid on Sunday.Jaime Villanueva

The Cabinet on Friday agreed to grant Spanish citizenship to the parents of Venezuelan political dissident Leopoldo López, who is in prison following a trial whose fairness has been questioned by international observers.

The Spanish government said the move would improve the couple’s democratic guarantees in the face of legal and political persecution back home caused by their son’s situation.

López has been held in solitary confinement at a military prison outside Caracas since February 2014

Leopoldo Ernesto López Gil and Antonieta del Coromoto Mendoza Coburn have been granted citizenship through a different method from the usual one, which is based on residency. Under the naturalization certificate system, individuals can become Spaniards if their case has particular human or social relevance, or if they have strong ties to Spain despite not living here.

The members of the Argentinean comedy group Les Luthiers obtained Spanish citizenship this way a few months ago, and the Peruvian-born writer Mario Vargas Llosa did so in 1993.

The proposal to add López’s parents to the list was made by Spanish Justice Minister Rafael Catalá. López has been convicted to nearly 14 years in prison by Venezuelan authorities for his opposition to the regime of Nicolás Maduro.

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The opposition leader has been held in solitary confinement at the Ramo Verde military prison outside Caracas since February 2014. He is charged with instigating the violence that erupted across the country on February 12 of that year, in which two protestors were killed at the hands of security forces.

His father, López Gil, has been subpoenaed by a Venezuelan court and faces an arrest warrant, as he was outside the country when legal proceedings against him were initiated. He lives between Spain and the United States.

Meanwhile, his mother is personally affected by the persecution to which her husband and son are being subjected, and thus meets the requirements for Spanish citizenship, said the government.

Last Sunday, voters in Venezuela handed opposition parties a historic landslide victory over President Nicolás Maduro’s Socialists in hotly contested legislative elections that ended 17 years of parliamentary rule by backers of the regime of the late president Hugo Chávez.

One of the first measures the opposition has said it will draw up is a resolution calling for the release of all political prisoners in the country.

English version by Susana Urra.