PM says Antigua helped in the release of Venezuela opposition leader

Browne and Nicholas Maduro

The Antigua and Barbuda government Saturday welcomed the release of the jailed Venezuelan Opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez saying it should be regarded as “ a confidence building measure between the government and opposition political parties” in the South American country.

Opposition supporters demanding the release of Leopoldo Lopez

Prime Minister Gaston Browne also indicated that the release should serve”to reinvigorate a dialogue between them that leads to a Venezuelan solution to the political impasse and economic and social difficulties facing the country.

“I urge all parties to seize this good faith measure to engage in the dialogue that is required in the interest of the people of their country,” Browne said in a statement.

Lopez has been put under house arrest after more than three years in jail. His lawyer, Javier Cremades said that his client “is at his home in Caracas with (his wife) Lilian and his children.

Lopez had been sentenced to a 14-year sentence for inciting violence during anti-government protests in 2014. The Supreme Court said he was released on health grounds.

He was being held in a jail near Caracas and has always protested his innocence. His wife had complained that she had not been allowed to see Lopez for more than a month, but on Friday she tweeted she had been allowed an hour-long meeting

In May, a government lawmaker published a video of Lopez in his cell following rumours that he had been poisoned and taken to hospital.

Earlier this week, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders at their summit in Grenada issued a statement re-affirming their guiding principles of the adherence to the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy, as well as for the fundamental principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of states.

The statement said that the regional leaders would continue to call for “all parties to commit to engage in renewed dialogue and negotiations leading to a comprehensive political agreement with established timetables, concrete actions and guarantees to ensure its implementation for the wellbeing of the nation”

CARICOM Chairman and Grenada’s Prime Minister, who has been mandated to write all stakeholders in Caracas in a bid to have CARICOM play a mediating role in the impasse, said that the regional leaders “could not sit around and not deal with it” a reference to the situation in Venezuela where opposition forces are seeking to overthrow the government of President Nicolas Maduro by staging street protests resulting in the deaths of more than 60 people.

In his statement, Prime Minister Browne said that over the “last few months, representatives of my government have engaged in quiet diplomacy with Venezuelan officials in the promotion of confidence building measures, such as the release from jail of Mr Lopez.

“In addition to conversations with Venezuelan representatives of the government and the opposition, our Ambassador to the Organisation of American States, Sir Ronald Sanders, also accepted a call last month from Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo Lopez.

“We believe in offering a helping hand to the parties and not in interference or intervention,” he said, adding “my government regards the news of Mr Lopez’s release from prison as a positive step, particularly in light of the offer of CARICOM’s Heads of Government to play a mediating role if all the parties in Venezuela wish it”.

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