Bogota, November 17, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Former opposition Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma has escaped house arrest in Venezuela and fled to neighboring Colombia, Colombian authorities have confirmed.
“Mr. Ledezma entered Colombian territory via land by the Simon Bolivar International Bridge in the community of Villa de Rosaria,” reads a statement from Colombia’s Foreign Ministry.
Ledezma was arrested in 2015 for allegedly plotting a coup against elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and for his alleged links to terrorist cells involved in violent protests the year before. He was transferred to house arrest later in 2015 on health grounds and was still awaiting trial at the time of his escape.
Despite being a fugitive of the Venezuelan justice system, Colombian authorities said right-wing politician Ledezma had entered North Santander from the Venezuelan border state of Tachira “legally”.
“He carried out corresponding migration procedures with the Colombian authorities, in line with migrations norms,” continues the statement.
Upon arriving in Colombia, Ledezma told press that he had only “consulted with his conscience" prior to his escape, and thanked God for helping him travel across Venezuela without being intercepted by the armed forces or police.
“I hope the Venezuelan people understand… this is a moment for calm, we must not give in,” he stated, accompanied by what appeared to be a bodyguard.
The ex-metropolitan mayor’s arrival in Colombia has been greeted with celebration from right-wing political figures in the neighboring country and across Latin America.
“Welcome to freedom!,” tweeted former Colombian President Andres Pastrana, who is a close ally to Venezuela’s opposition.
;Bienvenido a la libertad! @alcaldeledezma.¡ Es lo mejor que podía hacer. Te necesitamos libre por el mundo defendiendo la libertad, los derechos humanos y la democracia y no preso por la Narcodictadura de @NicolasMaduro. https://t.co/2piJxJbHjr
— Andrés Pastrana A (@AndresPastrana_) November 17, 2017
The secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, also applauded Ledezma’s evasion of Venezuelan authorities, stating on Twitter that the opposition figure would now be “free to lead the struggle [against Maduro] from exile”.
— Luis Almagro (@Almagro_OEA2015) November 17, 2017
Ledezma’s flight to Colombia comes as Venezuela’s national government and the opposition take tentative steps towards reinstating dialogue efforts following the government’s landslide win in October 15 regional elections.
This past August, Bogota offered political asylum to former Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega, who fled to Colombia after she was accused by Venezuelan authorities of running an extortion ring from her office.
It remains unclear whether Ledezma intends to apply for asylum with the Colombian government. Venezuela’s El Nacional newspaper reported that Ledezma’s final destination is Spain.