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World News

Fugitive Venezuelan politician to push for global condemnation of Maduro

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MADRID (Reuters) - Fugitive Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez said on Tuesday he would use his newly-won freedom in Spain to convince more countries to condemn President Nicolas Maduro’s government as dictatorial and support democratic change.

Lopez arrived in Madrid on Sunday after spending the past year at the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Venezuela to escape house arrest.

“Being in Spain allows me to take our cause to other parts of the world. I’m here to work, to confront the dictatorship, to carry the voice of those who cannot speak up because they are in Venezuela,” he said, promising to seek international sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations.

He met Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez earlier on Tuesday and said Sanchez was supportive of his cause, but many countries around the world remained to be convinced. Sanchez’s Socialist party said in a tweet only that it supported a peaceful, political solution in Venezuela.

“Unity is one of our main challenges ... not just at home. We also ask all countries to unite for the sake of liberty in Venezuela,” Lopez said.

He said he was willing to go “wherever we need to go to promote” the opposition’s push for free presidential elections, bring those responsible for human rights violations to international justice and alleviate the suffering of common Venezuelans in a humanitarian crisis.

Lopez declined to say how he fled Venezuela in order not to expose those who helped him and to preserve escape channels for those who may still need them. “Only five people knew, not even my wife knew about my leaving,” he said.

Lopez was jailed in 2014 for leading violent protests against Maduro, and was released to house arrest in 2017. From his Caracas home, he was a mentor to opposition leader Juan Guaido, who early last year invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency and began a campaign to unseat Maduro.

Reporting by Miguel Guiterrez Rosas, writing by Andrei Khalip

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