Ousted Caracas mayor flees house arrest

2017-11-18 14:50
Antonio Ledezma. (Ricardo Mazalan, AP)

Antonio Ledezma. (Ricardo Mazalan, AP)

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Caracas - Ousted Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma said he planned to take his fight against Venezuela's socialist government to Europe after he escaped house arrest and fled to Colombia on Friday.

The flight was an apparent embarrassment for security forces who had been keeping close watch over one of Venezuela's most prominent opposition leaders.

"I'm more useful fighting for Venezuela's democracy abroad than I am as a hostage at my home," said Ledezma minutes before boarding a Madrid-bound plane.

Security forces

He said the decision to flee Venezuela was his alone, kept secret even from his family, which has been living abroad.

He provided no details of how he sneaked past the Sebin intelligence police officers stationed 24 hours a day outside his residence, but said that during the long, nighttime drive past several national guard checkpoints to Venezuela's western border, he relied on the help of members of the security forces he described as increasingly fed up with President Nicolas Maduro.

"This decision I took consulting only my conscience," he said, adding that he had spoken by phone to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who offered his support.

Colombian immigration authorities said in a statement that Ledezma entered the country legally after crossing the Simon Bolivar bridge separating the two countries. 

House arrest

As Venezuelans were waking up to the news of Ledezma's escape and resurfacing in Colombia, several heavily armed police officers surrounded his residence in Caracas.

Ledezma, 62, was removed as mayor of Caracas and detained in 2015 on charges of plotting to oust Maduro. After a few months in jail he was released and placed under house arrest due to health issues.

He was one of the leaders of anti-government in protests that rocked Venezuela in 2014 that also led to the jailing of other prominent opponents, including his former cellmate Leopoldo Lopez, who remains under house arrest.

Read more on:    nicolas maduro  |  venezuela

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