France’s Macron meets with Venezuela opposition leaders

French President Emmanuel Macron met with Venezuela opposition leaders Monday to discuss the embattled nation's humanitarian and political crisis, two days after a leading activist was barred from leaving the country in order to attend the Paris meeting.

Foreign nations including Spain and the United Kingdom, whose leaders are expected to meet with members of Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly this week, have decried the socialist government's move to bar opposition activist Lilian Tintori from leaving Venezuela. 

Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, and Freddy Guevara, the legislature's first vice president, are scheduled to meet this week with European leaders in order to increase international pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to hold elections, respect a balance of power and allow humanitarian aid. 

Borges and Guevara told Macron that Venezuelans are in dire need of basic necessities like food and medicine at the same time that Maduro's government is stripping away basic civil rights. Borges said Macron asked "several times what he could do to relieve the crisis" and offered the possibility of providing humanitarian aid. 

"Dozens of countries have offered free food and medicine and it's unbelievable that the main obstacle is (the) government, the one which is supposed to defend the rights of the Venezuelan people," Borges said. 

Hours after the meeting, Macron's office issued a statement by the president indicating he was ready to push for European sanctions against Maduro's administration. 

Condemning what he called repression of the opposition, Macron said France was ready to launch European discussions "toward adopting measures targeting those responsible for this situation." He did not elaborate on what he had in mind. 

Borges said Macron told him he "fully supports the National Assembly that we represent ... which is the result of the legitimate vote of the Venezuelan people and which must be at the center of a democratic solution for the country."