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Latin America

Maduro accuses Spain’s ex-PM of working as “lobbyist” for coup plotters

Venezuelan leader’s attack comes after González’s pledge to defend jailed opponents

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Venezuelan Deputy Darío Vivas, in Madrid on Tuesday. EFE

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has lashed out against former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González, calling him “a lobbyist” who has joined a “Madrid-Bogota conspiracy” aimed at overthrowing his government.

Maduro was reacting to González’s decision to assume the legal defense of jailed opposition leaders, Leopoldo López and Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma. The former Socialist leader announced his decision Sunday in an interview with EL PAÍS.

During his weekly radio and television program, In Contact with Maduro, the Venezuela president on Tuesday claimed that González was once “thrown out of Miraflores” presidential palace by the late President Hugo Chávez “around 2005 or 2006.”

Maduro explained that González tried to convince Chávez to sell the Venezuelan state-owned telephone company Cantv to a company the former prime minister was representing.

Cantv belonged to the US telecoms firm Verizon until Chávez nationalized the company in 2006.

The opposition in Venezuela has welcomed González’s decision to help the jailed opponents.

López, who has been in prison for over a year, is on trial for charges connected to widespread anti-government protests last year, which left around 40 people dead. Last month, Ledezma was detained in his office after the Maduro government accused him of plotting a coup with other conspirators.

In Madrid, Venezuelan deputies denounced González’s “interference” in their country’s internal affairs

Both are being held at the Ramo Verde military prison outside Caracas.

González announced over the weekend that he would defend the two jailed leaders because he was concerned that democracy was not being sufficiently defended in Latin America and that the human rights situation in Venezuela was deteriorating.

In his own assessment of the former Socialist leader’s proposal, Maduro said there were two “fronts” that were trying to destabilize his country: the Bogota-Miami link, which – according to the president – is being organized by Venezuelan political advisor Juan José Rendón, and the Bogota-Madrid connection headed up by González.

“For a generous salary in euros, [González] has joined the campaign in favor of the coup plotters,” said a fiery Maduro, who also tried to back his claims by revealing that the former Spanish leader was given Colombian citizenship last year.

Also on Tuesday, four deputies from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), who were in Madrid, denounced González’s “interference” in their country’s internal affairs.

At a news conference at the Venezuelan Embassy, one of the lawmakers, Darío Vivas, charged that some Spanish sectors were “seeking impunity” for the jailed opposition leaders. “How can you free a corrupt, fascist and repressive man like Antonio Ledezma?” Vivas asked.

Earlier in the day, González told Cadena SER that he had spoken with former presidents Julio María Sanguinetti of Uruguay, Ricardo Lagos of Chile, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil about creating an international front to work to free the political prisoners.

When asked if the government would allow González to meet López and Ledezma in prison, Vivas said there would be no problem in allowing the visit.

“What we won’t accept is for him to try drumming up support for impunity in the name of human rights. We don’t need a ‘super judge’ and this is what we believe Felipe González wants to be.”

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