Venezuela asks Spain to extradite convicted opposition politician

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuela's Supreme Court on Tuesday sent a request to Spain for the extradition of exiled opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, who has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Lopez was jailed in 2015 for inciting violence amongst protesters against the government of Nicolas Maduro.

The violent repression of demonstrations by security services from February to May left 43 people dead and 3,000 injured, and brought international condemnation of the Maduro regime.

Lopez was transferred to house arrest in 2017 but was then released by rebel soldiers in April 2019 as part of a failed uprising against Maduro.

He has been living in Spain for the last seven months having left the country from the Spanish ambassador's residence where he took refuge once the uprising crumbled.

Maduro accused the ambassador, Jesus Silva, of "complicity" in the escape and said he would "review" Venezuela's relationship with Spain.

Nonetheless, Spain's representative for Latin America at the foreign affairs ministry, Cristina Gallach, visited Venezuela in March and urged "a political solution to the country's crisis."

Venezuela has been in recession for eight years and plunged into a political crisis in January 2019 when opposition leader Juan Guaido, who was parliamentary speaker at the time, declared himself acting president.

The opposition dominated legislature had previously refused to acknowledge Maduro's 2018 re-election in a poll widely condemned internationally as fraudulent.

Despite receiving support from more than 50 countries, Guaido failed to force Maduro from office and currently finds himself without an official position in parliament.

However, on Tuesday he proposed to restart negotiations with the government to bring an end to the political impasse and a "progressive lifting" of international sanctions against Maduro and his allies.

"Venezuela needs a national salvation agreement," said Guaido in a video shared on social media.

He said the lifting of sanctions would be dependent on "the convening of a schedule of free and fair elections: presidential, parliamentary, regional and municipal with international observation and support."

But he said Venezuela would also benefit from a "massive delivery of humanitarian aid and vaccines against Covid."

Guaido's call for elections came just days after the new parliament dominated by government allies named pro-government figures to the top electoral body.

The main opposition boycotted last year's parliamentary elections over fears they would not be free or fair.