Reuters: Venezuela opposition leader Ledezma flees to Spain18 November 2017 | 12:32 | FOCUS News Agency
With a 2018 presidential election looming, an array of major Venezuelan opposition figures are now in exile, detention or are barred from holding office.
They say Maduro has turned Venezuela into a dictatorship, while the government accuses them of joining forces with a U.S.-led global plot to topple him.
Ledezma, the best-known detained opponent of leftist President Nicolas Maduro after Leopoldo Lopez, had spearheaded street protests against Maduro in 2014 that led to months of violence and 43 deaths.
“In Spain today I feel free,” he said at Madrid’s Barajas airport, where he arrived in the early hours of Saturday. He was cheered by a small crowd including his wife and two daughters, who were already in Spain. Supporters chanted the Venezuelan anthem.
“Let’s not permit that Venezuela dies in our hands,” he also said, adding that he would soon meet with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
The 62-year-old former Caracas metropolitan mayor said he had gone past 29 police and army controls during a clandestine, overland journey that he kept secret from his loved ones.
“I ask my wife and daughters to understand. They have suffered long hours of anguish without knowing where I was,” he told reporters in the Colombian border town of Cucuta after crossing a bridge from San Antonio in Venezuela.
“It was my decision alone.”
“Welcome to freedom!” tweeted former Colombian President Andres Pastrana, who is close to Venezuela’s opposition and the families of other jailed activists.
Ledezma was mocked by Maduro as “The Vampire,” and accused by officials of helping violent hardliners, including dissident military officers plotting to topple the president via air strikes. Ledezma said those charges were trumped up.
“I hope they never send him back, they can keep the Vampire,” Maduro said on Friday evening.
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