MADRID (Reuters) – Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez arrived in Madrid on Sunday, Spain’s foreign ministry said in a statement, after spending the past year at the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Venezuela to escape house arrest.
“Leopoldo Lopez arrived in Madrid today, being able to reunite with his family,” the statement said.
Lopez’s decision to leave the Spanish embassy in Venezuela was “personal and voluntary”, it said.
Lopez’s party, Popular Will, did not say how he left Venezuela, but two people familiar with the matter said he travelled via Colombia.
Lopez, in a series of tweets in the early hours of Sunday, hinted he had left Venezuela but did not disclose his location.
“Venezuelans, this decision has not been easy, but rest assured that you can count on this servant to fight from anywhere,” Lopez tweeted.
“We will not rest and we will continue working day and night to achieve the freedom that all Venezuelans deserve.”
Lopez was jailed in 2014 after leading protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. He was released to house arrest in 2017.
From house arrest, he was a mentor to opposition leader Juan Guaido, who early last year invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency and began a campaign to unseat Maduro.
In April 2019, when Guaido tried to spur a military revolt against Maduro, Lopez appeared on the streets again alongside him. When the uprising fizzled, Lopez sought shelter first in the Chilean diplomatic residence and then at the home of the Spanish ambassador.
Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, who had joined him at the Spanish ambassador’s residence, left for Spain in May 2019 along with their daughter.
Reporting by Jessica Jones, Elena Rodriguez, Belen Carreno; Editing by Catherine Evans, Susan Fenton and Nick Macfie