Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez fled the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas and entered Colombia, according to four people with direct knowledge of the matter.
Lopez, a political prisoner since 2014, had been taking refuge there since April of late year, following a botched uprising against President Nicolas Maduro alongside National Assembly’s head Juan Guaido. His final destination will be Madrid, where his wife and children live since last year, according to two of the people.
Lopez’s departure will deliver a blow to an already weakened opposition, which under Guaido’s stewardship has failed to deliver the quick transition promised at the start of 2019.
“After two years of a continuous struggle, it seems that Maduro is stable and the opposition cannot find answers,” said Caracas-based political analyst Dimitris Pantoulas. “Lopez considers that it’s better to continue his fight outside, from exile, something that could also happen with Guaido.”
While the U.S. and many other countries now consider Guaido to be the country’s legitimate president, an influential Trump administration officialsecretly met with a representative of Venezuela’s regime in Mexico City in September to try to negotiate Maduro’s departure from power.
Sentenced to almost 14 years in prison on charges including arson and instigating violence after spearheading anti-government protests, Lopez was released on house arrest in 2017 with orders to remain quiet. From there, he helped orchestrate the rise of Guaido, who he met more than a decade ago during protests against the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
— With assistance by Ezra Fieser
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