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article imageOpposition figure Lopez taunts Venezuela's Maduro after court orders arrest

By AFP     May 2, 2019 in Politics

Opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez sent a defiant message to Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro from his refuge in the Spanish ambassador's residence in Caracas after the country's top court ordered his arrest on Thursday.

Lopez said Tuesday's opposition attempt to incite a military uprising against Maduro's government, which seemed to have fizzled out by Wednesday, was "part of a process."

"It's a crack that will become a bigger crack... that will end up breaking the dam," the 48-year-old told reporters congregated outside the residence.

Lopez, who was imprisoned in 2014 and transferred to house arrest three years later, made a sensational public appearance alongside opposition leader Juan Guaido and a group of rebel military personnel outside a Caracas air base on Tuesday.

Guaido -- the speaker of the National Assembly legislature, who is recognized as Venezuela's interim president by more than 50 countries -- tried to coax those inside the base to join the military rebellion, a move that sparked two days of clashes between security forces and opposition protesters that left four people dead.

Later on Tuesday, Lopez sought refuge in the Chilean embassy with his wife and daughter before moving to the Spanish ambassador's residence.

He claimed to have been freed from house arrest by rebel soldiers whose actions he said would bring down the Maduro "dictatorship."

The Supreme Court accused Lopez of "flagrantly" violating the terms of his house arrest.

Madrid said it would not hand over Lopez to Venezuelan authorities nor ask him to leave.

"The crack has started," said Lopez, adding that Tuesday's rebel soldiers "realize that they're not alone."

"We had prepared for this. It wasn't improvised... there will be more military movements."

He echoed Guaido's accusation that Maduro was "fraudulently" re-elected last year, describing his presidency as a "usurpation."

Lopez was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2014 after he was accused of having incited violent protests against Maduro, which left 43 people dead.

At the time, he was a leading opposition figure and the founder of the Popular Will party, which counted Guaido among its members.

The Harvard-trained Lopez comes from a prominent family -- some of his ancestors held top government positions -- but has been branded as "far right" and a "coup plotter" by socialist Maduro.

Popular Will describes itself as a progressive center-left movement.

Lopez's wife Lilian Tintori claimed on Twitter on Wednesday that their house had been robbed and ransacked while they were away.

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