Podemos Slams Ciudadanos Visit to Venezuela, Urges “Respect” for Legal System

Podemos General Secretary Pablo Iglesias issued a call Wednesday to respect Venezuela’s legal system following a controversial visit to Caracas by the head of the new right-wing Spanish political party Ciudadanos.

By Lucas Koerner
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Podemos General Secretary Pablo Iglesias (Luis Sevillano)
Podemos General Secretary Pablo Iglesias (Luis Sevillano)

Caracas, May 27, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Podemos General Secretary Pablo Iglesias issued a call Wednesday to respect Venezuela’s legal system following a controversial visit to Caracas by the head of the new right-wing Spanish political party Ciudadanos.

Ciudadanos President Albert Rivera traveled to the South American country on Tuesday, where he met with hard right politician Leopoldo Lopez, who was tried and sentenced to 13 years for his role in 2014’s violent opposition protests that left 43 dead and over 800 wounded.

Speaking before Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, Rivera urged the release of Lopez and other so-called “political prisoners”. He also advocated the “opening” of Venezuela to “freedom, competition, and equal opportunity”, deriding the country’s social democratic-inspired “model” as “against the times”.

Iglesias, for his part, questioned his rival’s partisan interference in Venezuelan internal affairs, underscoring that Lopez’s conviction was the outcome of a legitimate judicial process.

“I believe that effectively there was a trial that sentenced [Lopez] for this. I don’t like it that a well-known representative of a political force could end up in prison. However, I believe that in this case, we must respect the law of every country,” he stated via Spain’s Radio Nacional.

The leftist leader went on to accuse Rivera of “using the internal political matters of third countries” to distract from Spanish domestic issues ahead of June 26 elections.

Alberto Garzon, leader of Podemos’ left-wing electoral coalition partner, Izquierda Unida (IU), likewise took aim at Ciudadanos as well as at the ruling conservative Partido Popular (PP) for what he termed “overacting” towards Venezuela. 

In particular, he denounced Spanish caretaker Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s decision to convene a National Security Council meeting Friday to discuss Venezuela when, “in reality what we want is to talk about the problems that the social majority faces in our country.”

Unlike Iglesias, Garzon has been more forceful in his posture towards the South American country, blasting Lopez and the Venezuelan opposition as “undemocratic” and engaged in coup plotting.

Iglesias and other top Podemos leaders have been more cautious. As former advisors to the Venezuelan government under Hugo Chávez, they have sought to distance themselves from Chavismo amid a flood of unfounded accusations that they received illegal funding from Caracas. 

Last week, Podemos number three Pablo Echenique went as far as to compare Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to Rajoy, suggesting that both leaders share the “same tactic” of “talking about another country so as to not have to talk about their own”.

However, according to Podemos for Socialism circle member Jorge Martin, Podemos has been “largely consistent” in its policy towards Venezuela, which has been aimed at keeping the debate focused on Spain.

“Contrary to media representations, Podemos leaders have insisted that right-wing politicians are using Venezuela as a convenient smokescreen to hide from the real problems in Spain: brutal austerity policies, cuts in health care and education, anti-democratic laws and corruption scandals affecting the ruling PP party at the highest level,” he told Venezuelanalysis.

For its refusal to take up the cause of Venezuela’s right-wing opposition, Podemos has been harshly reprimanded by the leaders of Spain’s political establishment well as major media outlets, who have accused the leftist party of “selling itself to Chavismo”.

With elections just a month away, the Podemos-IU coalition is projected by recent polls to overtake the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) as the country’s second largest political force, winning 23% of the vote, just behind the ruling PP’s 30%.