Caracas, June 19, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - A minibus containing a group of rightwing Brazilian senators was confronted by Venezuelan protesters on Thursday, who blocked the road, preventing the delegation from visiting jailed hard right opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez in Ramo Verde prison.
The senators headed by rightwing ex-presidential candidate Aecio Neves had initially intended to drive from the coastal airport to Caracas and subsequently to Ramo Verde but encountered long delays on the heavily trafficked highway to the capital due to construction work, an accident, and the transport of a fugitive extradited from Colombia.
The bus was met by a group of protesters who allegedly hurled stones and blocked its path, forcing the senators to return to the airport to catch a flight Thursday night after just 12 hours in the country.
"We are here to defend democracy and until now the Venezuelan government has shown little appreciation of it,” complained Neves, who together with other rightwing senators has been pressuring Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to suspend diplomatic and commercial ties with Venezuela over alleged “human rights abuses”.
The visit was, however, roundly rejected by many Venezuelans who view such gestures by rightwing politicians from other countries as an infringement of sovereignty.
Venezuela’s top ombudsman William Tarek Saab condemned the Brazilian delegation’s arrival, dismissing such visits as a “sort of sport or hobby for politicians who don’t have an audience in their own country to come to Venezuela to rave and rant against our democracy.”
For its part, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry issued a statement Thursday repudiating what it termed “protesters’ unacceptable hostile acts against Brazilian parliamentarians” and requested an “explanation” from the Venezuelan government.
The Brazilian Senate passed a motion denouncing the incident and calling for harsh punitive measures against Venezuela, including expulsion from MERCOSUR, termination of bilateral trade agreements, and the recall of the Brazilian ambassador to Venezuela.
Venezuelan officials have yet to issue an official statement.
The last several months have seen visits by a number of rightwing ex-presidents to Venezuela, including Mexico’s Felipe Calderon, Colombia’s Andres Pastrana, former Spanish PM Felipe Gonzalez, Chilean ex-President Sebastian Piñera, and Bolivia’s Jorge Quiroga who have come to Venezuela to express their solidarity with Lopez and other jailed opposition leaders, despite being themselves accused of human rights abuses and/or corruption in their own countries.
Lopez, who has allegedly been on partial hunger strike for 25 days, is being tried for his role in leading last year’s violent opposition protests known as the “barricades” that resulted in the death of 43 people, half of whom government supporters and security personnel.