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LATIN AMERICA | 17-05-2024 15:13

Venezuela backtracks deal on opposition leader aides’ exit to Argentina

Venezuela’s government backtracked on a deal to allow six aides to opposition leader María Corina Machado to seek asylum in Argentina.

Venezuela’s government backtracked on a deal to allow six aides to opposition leader María Corina Machado to seek asylum in Argentina, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

The Nicolás Maduro government never issued documents granting them safe passage out of the country in April, claiming they had knowledge Machado’s aides would use them to flee to another destination, a senior Argentine official said, asking not to be named because the discussions are confidential.

Contact between the two governments stopped shortly after, he added. 

“There is no safe passage for those who do not love this country,” Socialist Party Vice-President and close Maduro ally, Diosdado Cabello, said on state TV on May 15. 

Machado’s campaign manager, Magalli Meda, as well as top advisers Pedro Urruchurtu, Claudia Macero and three others sought refuge in Argentina’s Embassy in Caracas in March after Venezuela’s Public Prosecutor ordered their arrest for alleged involvement in a plot to destabilise Maduro’s government. 

Tensions between the two nations have increased since, with Maduro frequently referring to Argentine President Javier Milei as a “neo-Nazi” and a “puppet” during televised speeches. 

Maduro’s refusal to allow the six aides to depart the nation in April came last minute, the people said, after plane tickets had been purchased and Argentina had agreed to process their asylum.

Since then Argentina has reached out to other countries in the region to discuss options that could pressure Maduro to allow them to leave safely, the senior official said. Venezuela’s Information Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The arrest orders on Machado’s team came amid a crackdown on dissent ahead of July elections in which the opposition primary winner has been banned from participating. The Maduro government has already issued 15 arrest warrants against Machado’s aides and allies, nine of which are already in prison.

by Andreina Itriago Acosta, Bloomberg

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