Barquisimeto, January 27, 2015 (Venezuelanalysis.com)- Former Chilean and Colombian Presidents, Sebastian Piñera and Andres Pastrana, have attempted to visit jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez while in Venezuela attending an event organized by the opposition. The visit has strained Venezuelan-Colombian relations, and created more fervor around Lopez, whom the opposition claims is a political prisoner.
Piñera, the former Chilean President, joined Andrés Pastrana of Colombia and Felipe Calderón of Mexico in Venezuela to meet with opposition leaders and hold a press conference. The presence of three former Latin American Presidents has attracted significant media attention and more so of their failed attempt to visit Lopez in prison.
During the ex-presidents’ visit to Venezuela, Pastrana and Piñera both called for the release of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez who is currently awaiting trial at the Ramo Verde Military prison in the state of Miranda. Lopez turned himself in to Venezuelan authorities 11 months ago, following his involvement and leadership in protests that resulted in the death of over 40 people.
After being denied access to visit Lopez at Ramo Verde, Pastrana criticized the decision saying that “a president does not need official authorization to visit a political prisoner,” the BBC reported.
In the midst of an economic war characterized by hoarding, shortages, long lines and inflation that government officials are likening to pre-coup Chile, Maduro stated that the visits from the former heads of state demonstrated their collaboration in “coup plotting.”
At a forum in Venezuela’s Principal Theater called “Neoliberalism and Human Rights: The victims speak,” Venezuelan vice president Jorge Arreaza declared that the former heads of states, Piñera and Pastrana, did not solicit permission from the corresponding institutions in order to have been able to visit Lopez.
The Venezuelan government has since released a statement responding to remarks made by the Colombian Foreign Minister supporting Pastrana.
“We regret that the Colombian Foreign Ministry endorses positions against Venezuelan democracy and the constitutional government of President Nicolas Maduro, which constitutes a dangerous setback in bilateral relations,” reads the statement.