Venezuela Rejects Felipe Gonzalez Visit as Former Spanish PM Touches Down in Caracas

The former Spanish Prime Minister claims to be visiting the country in order to help with the legal defence of jailed opposition leaders, Leopoldo Lopez, Daniel Ceballos and Antonio Ledezma. He met with Ledezma on Sunday. 

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A woman waves a placard rejecting Gonzalez's visit: "Murderer and Fascist - Venezuela respects itself" (Laiguana)
A woman waves a placard rejecting Gonzalez's visit: "Murderer and Fascist - Venezuela respects itself" (Laiguana)
By Rachael Boothroyd
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Caracas, June 8th 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez arrived in Caracas on Sunday in an alleged bid to help with the legal defence of jailed opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez, Daniel Ceballos and Antonio Ledezma.

All three politicians are currently under arrest for abetting violent actions aimed at toppling the democratically elected Venezuelan government.

Former Mayor of the Metropolitan District of Caracas Ledezma has been linked to the ringleaders of paramilitary groups arrested by authorities last year. While Lopez and Ceballos, both members of the far right “Popular Will” party, were involved in last year’s “barricades” which cost the lives of 43 people. 

Both Lopez and former Mayor of San Cristobal Ceballos recently grabbed the attention of the international media for having declared themselves on hunger strike. 

Gonzalez has pledged to meet with the politicians’ family members and to help with their legal defence as an “outside assessor”, despite not being registered to practice as an attorney in Venezuela. 

His controversial visit has sparked a negative backlash from the country’s institutions and citizens, who have branded it as an unacceptable interference into Venezuela’s national affairs, as well as a stunt for the international media. Venezuelans gathered in public squares across Venezuela on Sunday to publicly reject the former PM’s presence. 

“Venezuelan affairs are ours, only Venezuelans have the legal authority to deal with them, our entire homeland rejects interventionism,” tweeted President Nicolas Maduro. 

The PM’s visit to Venezuela had originally been planned for May but was later cancelled after Lopez’s trial was postponed. Ledezma was the first of the politicians to receive Gonzalez at his home on Sunday. He is under house arrest following surgery for a hernia in April and is due to begin trial next week. 

“Finally with authorisation we held our meeting, (it was) very agreeable, very cordial, talking about our worries… We believe that Venezuela lacks dialogue,” Gonzalez told teems of international reporters outside Ledezma’s house.  

According to Lopez’s regularly updated Facebook page, the ex Spanish PM is now expected to make a visit to both Lopez and Ceballos this Monday evening

Nonetheless, the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice moved to dispel rumours that Gonzalez would act in the politicians’ defence team. 

“He cannot act as a professional of law in a penal case inside national territory. This would violate our law of attorneys and the professional title required by the Constitution to act in this profession within our country,” clarified Glady Gutiérrez, President of the Supreme Court.  

The unusual visit has not just caused controversy in Venezuela but also in Gonzalez’s home country. On Monday, the leader of Spain’s “United Left” coalition, Cayo Lara, rallied against Gonzalez’s actions, describing them as a throwback to Spain’s colonial past in Latin America. 

“Felipe Gonzalez’s watch has stopped… He keeps thinking that you can go to Latin America as a colonizer… Countries are democratically sovereign, they have advanced and consolidated democracies. A lawful state where people present themselves for elections and are voted for by citizens,” said Lara.  

The visit comes on the heels of a 3000 person strong protest organised by the opposition at the end of May which was attended by the former presidents of Colombia and Bolivia, Andres Pastrana and Jorge Quiroga.