Venezuela, opposition figure, long confined, flees the country

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Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López fled the country on Saturday after spending the past six years in prison, house arrest and diplomatic asylum, his political party said.

Mr López, 49, is heading to an unknown international destination after leaving the Spanish embassy in Caracas, according to his political party and Spain’s foreign ministry. He had sought refuge at the residence of the Spanish ambassador after leading a failed military uprising against the government in April 2019.

A charismatic former United States-trained mayor with a piercing gaze, Mr. López has for years been one of the most radical opponents of the authoritarian President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, whom he sought to overthrow through street protests and more and more desperate palace plots. However, his maximalist tactics backfired, leaving the opposition dismantled and increasingly irrelevant to the struggles Venezuelans face amid one of the deepest economic recessions in modern history.

Mr López moved closer to his goal in early 2019, when his protégé, Juan Guaidó, a young lawmaker, declared himself the country’s interim president, citing Mr Maduro’s fraudulent re-election. The United States and most European and Latin American countries quickly backed it, cutting government off from the global economy.

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