Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is a free man and has been reunited with his family in Madrid following a daring escape from Caracas after more than six years in confinement.
Mr Lopez arrived in the Spanish capital on Sunday following what aides described as a whirlwind escape from the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas, where he had been holed up since leading a failed US-backed military putsch against President Nicolas Maduro in April 2019.
After months of planning, Mr Lopez fled Venezuela by sea and arrived in the nearby Caribbean island of Aruba on Friday, according to two people close to the opposition leader who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Aides insisted the departure was not the result of negotiations with the government, as many supporters and even opponents of the socialist government have speculated.
Mr Maduro’s government has yet to comment, though on Sunday the president removed his interior minister, General Nestor Reverol, who oversees the SEBIN intelligence police that stations a heavily armed contingent outside the Spanish ambassador’s residence.
Without referring to Mr Lopez, Mr Maduro said General Reverol would be replaced by former Defence Minister Carmen Melendez and instead be assigned to a new role as electricity minister.
Officers from SEBIN have detained several people working at the diplomatic mission, including a woman who served meals to Mr Lopez and private security guards, according to Mr Lopez’s allies.
SEBIN on Saturday tried to search the homes of officers with Spain’s national police posted to the diplomatic compound in search of information about Mr Lopez’s whereabouts.
Spain’s government condemned that action, saying it violated the Vienna convention governing international diplomatic relations.
“We call attention to this new abuse by the dictatorship’s henchmen,” Mr Lopez’s Popular Will party said in a statement, referring to the detentions.