Maduro Shuts Down Former Spanish PM’s López Defense Bid

Felipe González arrived on Sunday to a hostile reception from the Nicolás Maduro administration. (El Impulso)

EspañolFormer Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González (1982-1996) confirmed on Monday during a visit to Venezuela that he will be unable to join the legal defense of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López. This, due to a decision by Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice which bars him from serving as a lawyer within Venezuelan territory.

The former General Secretary of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) nevertheless reiterated his intention to attend a hearing for López scheduled for Wednesday, June 10, if he receives the necessary authorization.

González, who touched down in Venezuela on Sunday with the intention of witnessing the country’s situation, and particularly that of political prisoners, has stated that his visit isn’t designed to stir up polemic. The administration of President Nicolás Maduro prohibited his entry with his armed bodyguard, meaning that the Spanish embassy is now in charge of his security while in Venezuelan territory.

The four-term prime minister managed to speak with Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, currently under house arrest. After the meeting, González reported: “We spoke about the fundamental worries that everyone has … we believe that Venezuela is lacking dialogue to resolve its problems.”

González is still waiting for an official answer on whether he can visit López in the Ramo Verde military prison to verify his situation. So far, the government’s response has not been encouraging, with social network accounts managed by state institutions heading up the social media tag #FelipeFueradeAquí (Get out of here Felipe).

Among the official Twitter accounts used to call for his departure are those of Simón Bolívar International Airport, the bodies responsible for maritime territory and aerospace management, state airlines Conviasa and Aeropostal, the public transport ministry, the state TV channel, and the National Assembly.

“#FelipeFueradeAqui is the highest trending topic on Twitter.”

González emphasized that the hunger strike begun two weeks ago by Leopoldo López and his fellow political prisoner Daniel Ceballos is a “legitimate and democratic protest.”

The protest has been taken up by nearly 50 Venezuelans, who are joining the jailed opposition leaders in calling on the Maduro administration to free all political prisoners, cease persecution of dissident activists and media, name a date for 2015’s parliamentary elections, and ensure that these are held with the presence of Unasur, Organization of American States (OAS), and European Union observers.

Political Prisoners Threaten Thirst Strike

Raúl Emilio Baduel and Alexánder Tirado, two of the Venezuelan political prisoners who have joined the initiative begun by López and Ceballos, marked 13 days on hunger strike this Monday. In a press release, the pair stated that they would deepen their protest and declare a thirst strike if none of their demands were met.

Baduel and Tirado called on Public Ombudsman Tarek William Saab, Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz, and TSJ President Gladys Gutiérrez to transfer them from their current prison and to hold their hearing without delay. A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, but the authorities are yet to issue the official documentation.

Two Venezuelans on hunger strike in the Vatican, Rome, reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross had visited them. The ICRC has requested to visit political prisoners in Venezuela, but the government has so far shown no signs of accepting.

Translated by Laurie Blair.

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