LATIN AMERICA

“I have seen a very difficult humanitarian situation in Venezuela”

Albert Rivera, head of Spanish emerging party Ciudadanos, meets with the opposition in Caracas

Albert Rivera with Lilian Tintori, wife of dissident Leopoldo López.
Albert Rivera with Lilian Tintori, wife of dissident Leopoldo López.M.G. / EFE

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The head of Spain's emerging Ciudadanos party returned to Madrid on Thursday after a three-day visit to Venezuela to show support for the opposition there.

“I have seen a very difficult humanitarian situation in Venezuela,” said Albert Rivera. “I was surprised at the unity of opposition parties, who are very clear about the fact that they need to stick together.”

Rivera, whose reformist party came fourth at the inconclusive Spanish elections of December 20, is one of several Spanish politicians to have flown to the Latin American country in recent months.

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias

On Wednesday, he exchanged views with former Spanish prime minister Felipe González, who has been an active campaigner in defense of the Venezuelan opposition.

Rivera is also expected to meet with another former Spanish leader, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who was recently in Venezuela himself as part of an international commission.

On his last day in Caracas, right before taking his flight home, Rivera attempted to visit leading opposition figure Leopoldo López, who has been held in a military prison since 2014.

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On Wednesday, Rivera accused Spain’s other emerging party, the leftist Podemos, of turning a blind eye on the plight of the Venezuelan people because of its old ties with the Venezuelan regime.

“In my country there are parties that support what is happening here, who claim that these people [the dissidents] are coupmongers,” said Rivera in Caracas. “Most parties in Spain, save for Podemos because of its support for Chavismo, agree that dialogue [in Venezuela] must be supported.”

Campaigning abroad

Meanwhile, back in Madrid, Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias accused Rivera of using the trip to campaign ahead of the Spanish general election on June 26.

But he fell short of asking for Leopoldo López’s release, as all other Spanish parties have. In March 2015, the European Parliament voted on a resolution asking for the release of Venezuelan dissidents: all parties voted in favor save for the European Left, which includes Podemos.

Now, the anti-austerity party is trying to keep the issue out of the Spanish electoral campaign.

“Nobody should be in prison for defending their ideas,” said Iglesias. “But if it can be proven that someone committed crimes of terrorism, I think it’s sensible that this person might be in jail. I don’t know if this is the case.”

Earlier this month, Spain granted citizenship to six members of the Venezuelan opposition, including relatives of Leopoldo López and the head of national daily El Nacional.

English version by Susana Urra.

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