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Madrid dismisses “kidnapping” of Venezuelan ambassador as “diversion”

President Nicolás Maduro plays up small protest outside Venezuelan cultural center last week

The Spanish government has described the latest comments made by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro about Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as “unacceptable,” and an “insult” and “a smear.” On Friday evening, Maduro called Rajoy a “coward,” accusing him of allowing an alleged “aggression” against the Venezuelan ambassador, Mario Isea, in Madrid, who claims he was “kidnapped.”

Nicolas Maduro holds up a copy of the Venezuelan Constitution. Ampliar foto
Nicolas Maduro holds up a copy of the Venezuelan Constitution.

The incident that prompted Maduro’s latest outburst took place on May 11, when some 200 people gathered outside the offices of a cultural center run by the Venezuelan government in the Spanish capital to protest human rights violations by the embattled regime in Caracas.

The Spanish authorities had authorized the event until 8 pm, but many demonstrators remained outside the building after that time. Police suggested the ambassador remain inside the building or leave with an escort to avoid incident, which Isea refused to do, instead going on Venezuelan public television, saying: “there has been a kidnapping of the ambassador, of the diplomatic corps in Madrid and of the diplomatic representatives of other countries.”

Rajoy, you cannot allow the Venezuelan embassy to be attacked, that is fascism

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro

In a statement released on Sunday, the Spanish government said: “At no time was anybody harmed during the event [at the Venezuelan cultural center], which counted on the appropriate police protection,” and that the ambassador of Caracas in Madrid “was in touch at all times with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

“The terms aggression and kidnapping to describe what happened can only be an attempt to divert attention from the deep political crisis Venezuela is enduring, in the face of which Spain calls on the Head of the Executive Power of this fraternal country to offer effective and genuinely democratic solutions to Venezuelans,” said the Spanish government.

Speaking on Venezuelan television, Maduro lambasted the Spanish PM: “We cannot allow ambassadors and embassies to be attacked, this violates the basic human right of co-existence, international law, and Rajoy allowed it,” he said. “Rajoy, you are a coward, you cannot allow an ambassador of any country to be attacked. You cannot allow the Venezuelan embassy to be attacked, that is fascism,” he continued.

An opposition protester after blowing up the tank of a police motorbike on May 3 in Caracas.
An opposition protester after blowing up the tank of a police motorbike on May 3 in Caracas. AFP

After accusing Rajoy, who has been a long-standing supporter of the opposition in Venezuela, of looking for a “fight” with Venezuela, Maduro called on Spain’s King Felipe to launch an investigation into the “aggression” and for “legal punishments” for those who besieged “a sacred diplomatic enclosure, protected by the Vienna Convention.”

Spain has recalled its ambassador to Venezuela twice in the last two years after Maduro insulted Rajoy, but on this occasion its response was limited to a public statement.

At no time was anybody harmed during the event, which had police protection

Spanish government statement

The incident comes as the European Union’s Council of General Affairs Council meets on Monday to approve a Spanish proposal calling for an investigation into the deaths of protesters in Venezuela, as well as for political prisoners there to be released, along with a separation of powers and respect for the law, and for a date to be set for general elections.

For the last year, the country has been in the throes of an unprecedented crisis that is hitting it from all sides: it has the highest inflation rate in the world, violence is rampant, people have trouble finding and buying necessary everyday items, and the very fabric of society is breaking down.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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