The peculiarities of Leopoldo López’s “escape”: Which countries and people helped him?
El País adds that “the details of the journey of López’s departure are still unknown. One possibility is that he left through the Colombian border and took a direct flight”
Until this weekend, the fugitive from Venezuelan justice Leopoldo López was protected by the Kingdom of Spain at its embassy in Caracas. But, he finally made his “escape” or “flight” from Venezuela through “an elaborate plan” that took him on a long journey to Spain. In the first instance, he would have passed through several migratory points in different countries, including: Colombia, Aruba and the United States.
The journal El País of Spain reports that the journey of the leader of the far-right group Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) — was forged with the complicity of at least three foreign governments. These allowed him to cross their immigration control points without identification, sol he could reach Madrid.
López “had the help of several countries that provided him with the relevant documentation and guaranteed his protection during the different stages of his trip”. This was stated — for its part — by the far-right Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.
On the other hand, the Iberian newspaper ABC assured López managed to travel to Madrid from Miami, United States. “To enter Spain, the Venezuelan leader was forced to use a false identity, since the only document he carried with him was a photocopy of his identity card”. Presumably, this was confirmed by sources familiar with the operation of the Venezuelan fugitive.
López arrived in Spain on a commercial flight
For its part, El País adds that “the details of the journey of López’s departure are still unknown. One possibility is that he left through the Colombian border and took a direct flight (from Bogotá to Madrid). Another, he went by sea to the island of Aruba and took a plane from a third country”.
“The arrival in Spain was awaited with great expectation, since it was learned that López had left the residence of the Spanish ambassador in Caracas, where he had been sheltered since April 30, 2019, after participating in a failed military uprising. The opponent of the ‘Chavismo’ has not been seen after he left the Madrid airport and is already at his home”. This was indicated to El País by alleged family sources.
The same medium adds: “A large group of journalists had been waiting in Terminal 4 of the airport (…) since early in the morning. But, the wait has been useless, since he has not left through the usual passenger door, despite the fact that he arrived on a commercial flight. Sources from the Madrid airport did not reveal whether López had arrived via Bogotá or Miami, nor what would have been the stopovers for the trip”.
In a statement, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that López’s decision to leave the Embassy was “personal and voluntary”.
Likewise, Spain “condemns the arrests of its personnel (workers) from its Embassy, as well as the searches produced in the homes of personnel attached to it”. These acts “imply a breach of the obligations contained in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations”.
And maintaining an interfering attitude, Spain also reiterates that the solution to the Venezuelan crisis involves “a negotiated solution, led by the Venezuelans themselves. (…) That allows the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections with full democratic guarantees”.
Venezuela condemns complicity of Spain
The president of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, pointed to the current Spanish ambassador in Caracas, Jesús Silva Fernández, for “facilitating” the escape of López. “He was a guest and guests don’t run away. The ambassador must have, at least, accompanied him to the door. He must have supported him with something”, Cabello said.
In addition, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, also issued a statement in this regard. In it, Caracas rejects “the flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by the Government of Spain, by facilitating, with notable complicity, the escape of the terrorist Leopoldo López”.
Arreaza also denounces that Spain encourages and protects the escape of “a dangerous criminal” and demonstrates — once again — “the antidiplomatic and hostile practice of the Spanish State towards Venezuela”.
In that sense, the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin) — according to Spanish diplomatic sources — would have detained two people for their alleged complicity. It would be a private security guard and an employee of the fugitive who was in charge of serving him food, said the EFE agency.
The first of those involved would be José Jerjes Neira, who had been working at the Embassy for years. The second person would be Nubia Campos, in charge of serving food to López during his stay in the diplomatic compound.
López’s departure was “voluntary”
Meanwhile, according to sources from the López family, cited by El País, the Venezuelan fugitive left “voluntarily”, without any pressure from the Government of Spain.
López spent three years in a military jail, of the 14 he was sentenced to for his participation in the seditious plan “La Salida”. This operation was carried out between February and March 2014, leaving as a result 43 people murdered, others tortured and at least 3,000 wounded. Later, he was given the benefit of house arrest instead of jail.
After the failed coup attempt on April 30, 2019, López settled himself in the Spanish embassy in Caracas. He stayed there for 18 months, until he escaped this Saturday, October 24, 2020 and landed a day later in Madrid.
ABC sources affirmed that López will “very soon” undertake an international tour, to talk about the parliamentary elections called for December 6 in Venezuela. This process is considered fraudulent by the opposition, despite being a constitutional mandate.
According to Antonio de la Cruz, political analyst and director of Inter American Trends, López’s departure is mainly due to a change of ambassador. This was explained in an interview for El Nacional
De la Cruz explained that the appointment of Juan Fernández Trigo as the new ambassador “represented a danger” for the stay of the opposition leader. “The new ambassador of Spain comes from being the representative of Spain in Cuba. He has ties and good relations with the island’s regime”, he said.
“By having so much connection with the island of Cuba and at a time when changes may come, Leopoldo is a very strong card that could lead to a negotiation. And this is not favorable for an exit”, he stressed.
PanAm Post version
According to the Miami daily PanAm Post, owned by close relatives of the far-right María Corina Machado, López’s flight occurred “with the authorization of the Nicolás Maduro regime, with prior notification from the Spanish Embassy to the Miraflores Palace”.
The portal adds that the exit “was not a spontaneous decision”, but an agreement with the United States. This would have been “reached in a secret meeting that took place in September in Mexico, according to what a source told PanAm Post”.
“The unofficial meeting between the Chavista official Jorge Rodríguez and the White House envoy, Richard Grenell, occurred on September 17 on the outskirts of Mexico City. The meeting discussed issues such as the release of Citgo executives, detained in Venezuela in November 2017 — under house arrest since December 2019 — and the authorization for Leopoldo López to leave the country”, adds the Florida-based portal .
In his dispatch, the PanAm Post cites information published by The New York Times, last Wednesday. According to this medium, “the US president, Donald Trump, had sent Grenell to meet with Rodríguez in Mexico. His objective was to pressure the departure of Nicolás Maduro from power and score another diplomatic victory before the elections. The Times noted that there was no evidence that the trip of the Trump envoy had any effect” in facilitating a peaceful transition.
Richard Grenell is a close ally of President Trump and has held important positions in the administration. He was acting director of National Intelligence and ambassador to Germany. He was recently in charge of the negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, which made it possible to re-establish relations between these countries”, it adds.
For its part, the Bloomberg news agency — says the PanAm Post — also released the information that was leaked about this meeting. “Grenell followed direct orders from Trump. According to this publication, neither the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, nor the special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, were aware” (of that encounter).