Caracas – Ousted Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma said he planned to take his fight against Venezuela’s socialist government to Europe after he escaped house arrest and fled to Colombia Friday.
The escape was an apparent embarrassment for security forces who had been keeping close watch over one of Venezuela’s most prominent opposition leaders.
“I’m more useful fighting for Venezuela’s democracy abroad than I am as a hostage at my home,” said Ledezma minutes before boarding a Madrid-bound plane.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose top political allies have been accused by Washington of dealing in illegal narcotics offered to help U.S. President Donald Trump in fighting the drug trade.
Top Venezuelan officials including Vice President Tareck El Aissami and Interior Minister Nestor Reverol have been blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury on allegations they have helped move drugs from neighboring Colombia into North America.
‘President Trump, if you really want to fight drug trafficking that has destroyed U.S. youth and filled the country with drugs from Colombia, you have an ally in me,’ Maduro said in a televised broadcast. ‘Come find out about our experience, we can join forces.’
As for Ledezma, he said the decision to flee Venezuela was his alone, kept secret even from his family, which has been living abroad.
He provided no details of how he sneaked past the Sebin intelligence police officers stationed 24 hours a day outside his residence, but said that during the long, nighttime drive past several national guard checkpoints to Venezuela’s western border, he relied on the help of members of the security forces he described as increasingly fed up with President Nicolas Maduro.
“This decision I took consulting only my conscience,” he said, adding that he had spoken by phone to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who offered his support.
As Venezuelans were waking up to the news of Ledezma’s escape and resurfacing in Colombia, several heavily armed police officers surrounded his residence in Caracas.
Ledezma, 62, was removed as mayor of Caracas and detained in 2015 on charges of plotting to oust Maduro. After a few months in jail he was released and placed under house arrest due to health issues.