Venezuela issues arrest warrant for opposition leader

Leopoldo Lopez was freed from house arrest by armed forces loyal to Juan Guaido.
CARACAS: Venezuela’s top court issued an arrest warrant Thursday for Leopoldo Lopez, a prominent opposition leader who is accused of being part of a movement to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

Lopez was freed from house arrest Tuesday by armed forces loyal to self-declared president Juan Guaido. He initially sought refuge in the Chilean embassy with his wife and daughter but they later decided to move to the Spanish embassy, said Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero.

Lopez, the former leader of the Popular Will Party, was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison in 2015 for criminal association and inciting anti-government protests that led to violence and the deaths of 43 people.

Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10, when Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.

Tensions escalated when Guaido, who heads Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself acting president on Jan. 23, a move which was supported by the U.S. and many European and Latin American countries.

Russia, Turkey, China, Iran, Bolivia and Mexico have thrown their weight behind Maduro.

Guaido posted a video statement on social media Tuesday showing him standing alongside a small contingent of uniformed military personnel and armored vehicles in which he called for an uprising to end the “usurpation” of Maduro.–AA

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