The botched uprising in Venezuela is having a surprising but tangible effect on politics all the way over in Spain.
By allowing the opposition leader Leopoldo López to seek refuge as a “guest” in its Embassy in Caracas, Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has chosen to deepen its involvement with the tortured situation in a way that’s not to the liking of possible partners.
After his Socialists won the most seats in elections held April 28, Sánchez still needs the support of the anti-establishment party Podemos to be able to form a government. The trouble is that Podemos’s leader Pablo Iglesias thinks the attempt by Juan Guaidó, with López at his side, to seize power on Tuesday amounted to an attempted coup.
“Guaidó doesn’t want free elections – he wants a coup d’état that provokes an intervention by Donald Trump and a bloodbath in Venezuela,” Iglesias said on Wednesday. He also thinks Sánchez made a mistake by recognising Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president.
Sánchez is due to hold talks with political leaders, including Iglesias, next week as he starts to explore his options to form a government.
Meanwhile, tensions continue to rise in Caracas with a court on Wednesday ordering the arrest of López. Spain said it wouldn’t hand him over. It’s also pressing for immediate elections and repeating its call for the situation not to descend into a bloodbath.
It’s comparatively rare for a foreign policy issue to become a significant event in Spanish domestic politics but the Venezuela issue is one, said Antonio Barroso, managing director for Europe at Teneo Intelligence in London.
Even so, it’s unlikely to have much influence for now on the process of forming a new government, said Barroso. What is clear is that by welcoming López into its ambassador’s home in Caracas, Spain has raised the stakes by choosing to become more involved in the unstable politics of Venezuela.