Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López has fled the country after spending the past 18 months holed up inside the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas following his involvement in a failed uprising against the government of Nicolás Maduro.
Senior figures from his Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) party confirmed the news to the Financial Times, without saying where he had gone. Fellow opposition leader Juan Guaidó also tweeted the news.
Mr López is one of the most prominent Venezuelan opposition figures, best known for leading street protests against the Maduro regime in 2014. He was arrested during those demonstrations, and later found guilty of public incitement to violence and sentenced to nearly 14 years in jail. He was imprisoned in the Ramo Verde facility in Caracas.
He was then granted house arrest. In 2019, with the aid of guards who had turned against the Maduro administration, he left his home to join the uprising against the government. On the morning of April 30 that year, he appeared alongside Mr Guaidó outside a military base in Caracas, calling on the armed forces to join them to depose Mr Maduro.
His escape comes as Venezuela gears up for congressional elections on December 6 which could reshape the country’s political map.
Mr Guaidó says the vote is a farce and has urged the opposition to boycott it. If he does not take part he will lose the presidency of the National Assembly — the basis for his claim to be the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. The US and dozens of other countries recognise him as such.
There has been some speculation in Caracas that once stripped of the congressional presidency, Mr Guaidó might chose to leave Venezuela or seek refuge in a foreign embassy to avoid arrest.
In a separate development, Argentina’s state news agency Telam reported that Bolivia’s former president Evo Morales flew to Venezuela on Friday night from Argentina, where he has spent the past year in exile.
His party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) did not give a reason for his trip but it comes just days after the MAS won a thumping victory in Bolivia’s presidential election. Mr Morales has said he will “sooner or later” return to Bolivia and the MAS’s winning candidate, Luis Arce, has vowed to restore diplomatic relations with Caracas.