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Madrid under fire for welcoming in fugitive ex-mayor

VENEZUELAN Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza attacked Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the weekend for welcoming fugitive from justice Antonio Ledezma, who had fled house arrest in Caracas.

The former Caracas mayor, who was detained in 2015 on charges of conspiracy to commit violent crimes, left home on Friday and crossed into Colombia.

He flew to Madrid to be greeted by his wife and two daughters, pledging to fight President Nicolas Maduro from exile.

“I am going to dedicate myself to travelling the world to spread the hope of all Venezuelans to escape this regime, this dictatorship. Venezuela isn’t on the verge of an abyss, it has fallen into the abyss,” he declared.

Within hours the fugitive was in Madrid’s presidential palace being feted by Mr Rajoy.

President Maduro called him “a vampire flying around the world,” adding: “I hope they never send him back. They can keep the vampire. The people of Madrid will have to be careful at night, the vampire is going to Madrid.”

Mr Ledezma, who was involved in the 2002 coup that briefly overthrew president Hugo Chavez, joined far-right opposition leader Maria Corina Machado in urging an escalation of deadly street protests in 2014.

“I left my flag with Maria Corina Machado, whom I trust completely,” he said.

Mr Arreaza described Mr Rajoy’s welcome for Mr Ledezma as the continuation of “a long list of aggressions and interference committed against the people.”

He urged the Spanish leader to “refrain from promoting actions that seek to undermine the peace of Venezuelans.”

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