Ousted Venezuelan opposition leader escapes house arrest, flees to Spain | News | DW | 18.11.2017
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Ousted Venezuelan opposition leader escapes house arrest, flees to Spain

Ousted Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma has likened his escape to a film. He plans to take the fight against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro abroad.

The ousted opposition mayor of Caracas arrived in Spain on Saturday after orchestrating a daring escape from house arrest in Venezuela.

Antonio Ledezma landed in Madrid from Bogota, Colombia, where he arrived a day earlier after slipping across the border. He was greeted by his wife and two daughters who live in Spain.

Ledezma said he planned to organize resistance from abroad to President Nicolas Maduro, under whose rule millions of Venezuelans have suffered from shortages of food and other basic supplies.

"I am going to travel the world to spread the hope of all Venezuelans to escape this regime, this dictatorship," Ledezma said.

The mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma hugs his wife Mtzy Capriles and his daughter

Ledezma hugs his wife and two daughters in Madrid.

The 62-year-old opposition figure was removed as mayor of Caracas and arrested in 2015 on allegations he sought to topple Maduro. He was later put under house arrest due to health issues.

Escaping 'government plans'

Ledezma was one of the opposition leaders who led protests against the government in 2014, which also resulted in the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. He remains under house arrest.

It was unclear how Ledezma escaped from 24-hour security posted outside his home and slipped through more than two dozen police and military checkpoints to cross the border into Colombia. The former mayor likened the escape to a film and suggested he received help from disgruntled members of the military.

He said he fled after receiving unspecified word of "government plans” against him.

Colombian officials said Ledezma had "entered Colombian territory by land, over the Simon Bolivar international bridge."

Ledezma said he spoke over the phone with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, a critic of Maduro.

Opposition talks with government

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have fled to neighboring Colombia, including ousted chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Diaz. She was a former Socialist ally before expressing opposition to the country becoming a "dictatorship."

Organization of American States chief Luis Almagro welcomed the mayor's escape.

"My regards to Antonio Ledezma, moral reference of Venezuela, now free to lead the fight from exile, for the establishment of a democratic system in his country," he wrote on Twitter.

Ledezma is a critic of repeatedly failed talks between the main opposition umbrella Democratic Unity Round Table (MUD) and Maduro's Socialists, which are set to begin again on December 1 in the Dominican Republic. The talks have further fractured the opposition. 

cw/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa)

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