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Venezuela blocks opposition activist’s trip to meet Europe leaders

Ronaldo Schemidt, AFP | Lilian Tintori (C), detained Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez’s wife, at a polling station in Caracas on July 16, 2017 during an opposition-organized vote against President Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution.

The wife of one of Venezuela's top detained opposition figures said airport agents on Saturday stopped her from traveling to meet the leaders of France, Germany, Spain and Britain.


Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez's wife said on Twitter that immigration officials confiscated her passport on orders from the chief prosecutor's office.

Lilian Tintori was set to hold meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and British Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss the political crisis in Venezuela.

International powers accuse President Nicolas Maduro of dismantling democracy by taking over state institutions in order to resist opposition pressure for him to quit, amid an economic crisis that has caused shortages of food and medicine.

Tintori posted a picture on Twitter showing her at the airport with the ambassadors of Spain, Germany and Italy, who she said were "witnesses to this outrage by the dictatorship."

"They just stopped me from leaving the country. The dictatorship wants to prevent us from making a very important international tour," Tintori said.

"I was ready to report that there are human rights violations in Venezuela; that it is a dictatorship, that there are 590 political prisoners; and that 53 percent of our children are malnourished," she stressed.

Julio Borges, head of opposition-led National Assembly, earlier tweeted that he would be traveling to meet the same foreign leaders.

It was unclear if Borges had already left the country. Tintori and Borges, however, are scheduled on Rajoy's agenda for a Tuesday meeting.

"We condemn the timing of this decision," a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said, adding that it hopes Tintori would be permitted to travel soon.

"It is the responsibility of the Venezuelan government to avoid further steps that increase tension and take Venezuela away from democracy," she added.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that he was waiting to meet Tintori in Europe. "The Venezuelan opposition must remain free," he added.

FRANCE 24's Anatoly Kurmanaev reports from Caracas on Lilian Tintori's predicament

Tintori's husband was sentenced in 2015 to nearly 14 years in prison on charges of inciting deadly violence in street protests.

In July, Lopez was moved to his home and placed under house arrest after spending nearly 3.5 years in a military prison.

Venezuela is suffering an economic crisis that has caused food and medicine shortages.

Prosecutors say some 130 people were killed this year in four months of anti-government protests.

Maduro says the crisis is a US-backed conspiracy. He has vowed to request an Interpol notice for Ortega's arrest.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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