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Angry Venezuelan president lashes out at ‘interfering’ Spanish PM

Nicolás Maduro criticizes Mariano Rajoy after his calls for release of political prisoners

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s demand that Venezuela free imprisoned opposition leaders has met with an angry response from the country’s president, Nicolás Maduro – a reply that contrasts with the caution shown by Caracas over the same calls from US President Donald Trump.

Nicolás Maduro with Vice President Tareck El Aissami to his left, on Thursday. EFE

Rajoy and former Spanish prime ministers Felipe González and José María Aznar attended an event in Madrid on Thursday in support of Venezuelan opposition leaders, among them Leopoldo López, who will have spent three years in jail on Saturday. Afterwards, the Spanish prime minister posted a tweet calling for López to be released. He and his predecessors have issued a statement calling on the Organization of American States to “take measures against Venezuela for the deterioration of democracy and the existence of political prisoners.”

Speaking at an event in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, Maduro responded to the tweet, telling an audience of the youth wing of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela that Rajoy would have his teeth “smashed in” if he interfered with Venezuela, adding: “Not just him, but the whole failed international right wing.” He called Rajoy a “bandit and protector of criminals and murderers.”

It's three years since @leopoldolopez went to prison. We ask for justice, human rights and liberty for Venezuelan political prisoners

Maduro also hit out this week against US news channel CNN, blocking its Spanish-language service on Wednesday, a week after the broadcaster linked Vice President Tareck El Aissami and others to more than 150 Venezuelan passports and identification papers it says were issued to people in the Middle East. El Aissami was also placed on a black list of drug traffickers by the US Treasury Department this week.

Spain has recalled its ambassador to Venezuela twice in the last two years after Maduro insulted Rajoy.

Maduro’s tirade against Rajoy contrasts sharply with the caution he has shown toward Donald Trump, who this week met with three Latin American presidents to discuss the crisis in Venezuela, and who has also called for the release of López after meeting with his wife, Lilian Tintori, in Washington.

Maduro’s tirade against Rajoy contrasts sharply with the caution he has shown toward Donald Trump

Caracas has suggested in recent weeks that Trump’s comments were a result of poor advice, and has instead continued attacking former president Barack Obama. It remains to be seen how long a government characterized for its volatility, divisions and marked anti-US posturing can remain patient.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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