Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López said on Thursday that he is optimistic socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro will step down “within weeks” after sections of the military released him from house arrest and joined the opposition.
López, who is the head of interim President Juan Guaidó’s socialist political party Popular Will, was released from house arrest this week by military officers who decided to abandon the Maduro regime and join the opposition. He has since sought refuge in the Spanish Embassy in Caracas to protect himself from authorities.
“We are preparing very seriously for the next part that is the transitional government,” López said outside the embassy. “There are solutions to Venezuela’s problems. I hope that the Maduro regime will fall within the next few weeks … More military desertions are coming, of course. This is going to end, this dictatorship is going to end.”
.@leopoldolopez: Nos estamos preparando con mucha seriedad para la próxima parte que es el cese de la usurpación #EnVIVO en #TVVenezuela por nuestra señal de Youtube en: https://t.co/q7lyJQRHue pic.twitter.com/5glGDYGOwE
— TVVenezuela Noticias (@TVVnoticias) May 2, 2019
The 48-year-old former mayor of Chacao has long been one of the most high-profile political prisoners in Venezuela, arrested and imprisoned by the regime in 2014 for his leading role in organizing mass anti-government protests. He spent four years of his sentence at the notorious Ramo Verde military prison in Caracas, but was eventually released into house arrest where he has stayed since.
In February, López’s wife Lilian Tintori revealed that her husband would likely put himself forward as a candidate in any future presidential election once Maduro has left. She stressed that López had “worked hard” with other members of his center-left party to create the “Country Plan,” a progressive manifesto designed to rebuild the country’s shattered economy in a post-Maduro era.
“If we achieve a free election, Leopoldo will surely make the decision to present himself,” she said. “Since his unjust imprisonment, he has developed a plan together with the best experts in each area to rescue Venezuela. He presented it to the National Assembly in December and he is ready to get going.”
Pressure has rapidly mounted on the Maduro regime in recent weeks as it struggles to keep control of a country suffering one of the world’s most serious economic and humanitarian crises. According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Maduro was ready to leave the office and seek refuge in Cuba on Monday after the announcement of various military desertions but ultimately decided to stay and fight on the advice of Moscow, who remain steadfast supporters of his regime.
On Tuesday, Maduro refuted that the military had abandoned him and called on them to resist attempts to remove him. “Soldiers of the country, the time has come to fight and set the example before the world by defeating attempted coup plotters who sell themselves to Washington dollars,” he told a military parade. “In Venezuela, we have a loyal and cohesive armed force like never before.”