Venezuelan opposition figure Lopez abandons Caracas residence to flee abroad
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez has abandoned the Spanish ambassador's residence in Caracas to leave the country, more than a year after seeking refuge there to escape house arrest, three people familiar with his exit said. Lopez was heading for Colombia, two of the people said, though it was not immediately clear if he had already arrived. Lopez was jailed in 2014 after leading protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, before his provisional release in 2017
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez has abandoned the Spanish ambassador's residence in Caracas to leave the country, more than a year after seeking refuge there to escape house arrest, three people familiar with his exit said.
Lopez was heading for Colombia, two of the people said, though it was not immediately clear if he had already arrived.
Lopez was jailed in 2014 after leading protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, before his provisional release in 2017. From his house arrest, he mentored Juan Guaido, then a young delegate in their hardline Popular Will party.
Early last year, Guaido was elected head of the opposition-controlled congress and 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 again alongside him. When the uprising fizzled, Lopez sought shelter first in the Chilean diplomatic residence and then at the home of the Spanish ambassador.
Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori, who joined him at the residence, left for Spain that May, along with their daughter.
"I'm extremely happy that Leopoldo Lopez can again be with his family in freedom," Maria Corina Machado, leader of another Venezuelan opposition party, wrote on Twitter.
Lopez's relationship with his Spanish hosts has sometimes been fractious. After granting Lopez access to the residence, acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Spain would not allow its embassy in Caracas to be used as an opposition center and it would limit Lopez's political activity.
Borrell said the Spanish government would not turn Lopez over to the Venezuelan authorities, but it would not grant him asylum as he would have to request it once in Spanish territory.
(Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Mayela Armas and Brian Ellsworth; Writing by Angus Berwick; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
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