Venezuelan opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez has abandoned the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas to flee the country, more than a year after seeking refuge there to get out of house arrest, his party said on Saturday.
The 49-year-old former Caracas-area mayor had been holed up at the ambassador’s residence since a failed military uprising he led in April 2019 aimed at deposing President Nicolas Maduro.
He has been jailed, under house arrest or in a foreign embassy refuge for nearly seven years.
In a statement from Popular Will, the party Lopez founded, leaders confirmed he had left the country to continue his work from abroad in a decision they deemed “best for the country and the fight for Venezuela’s freedom”.
It was not clear how Lopez left Venezuela, but Reuters News Agency, citing two unnamed people familiar with the matter, said he exited via Colombia.
The party also did not say where Lopez was headed. A Spanish government source told Reuters that his arrival in Spain, where his wife now lives, was “imminent”.
“It’s probably the clearest sign that the continued opposition effort to unseat Maduro has floundered that a committed stay-in-Venezuela leader like Lopez has chosen to finally leave,” said Raul Gallegos, a Colombia-based analyst at Control Risks consultancy.
Lopez was jailed in 2014 after leading protests against Maduro.
He was pictured being pulled into a military vehicle with a Venezuelan flag in one hand and a white flower in the other. He was provisionally released in 2017.
From house arrest, he mentored Juan Guaido, a young Popular Will delegate who early last year was elected head of the opposition-controlled congress.
It’s probably the clearest sign that the continued opposition effort to unseat Maduro has floundered that a committed stay-in-Venezuela leader like Lopez has chosen to finally leave
Counselled by Lopez, Guaido then invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in a bid to unseat Maduro.
In April 2019, when Guaido spurred a brief military revolt against Maduro, Lopez appeared on the streets alongside him. After the uprising fizzled, Lopez sought shelter at the Spanish ambassador’s residence.
Guaido confirmed Lopez’s escape in a Twitter message on Saturday and ridiculed Maduro for failing to capture him.
There was no immediate reaction from the Venezuelan authorities.