Venezuela bars wife of Leopoldo Lopez from traveling to Europe
A prominent anti-government activist was barred from leaving Venezuela on Saturday for planned meetings with European leaders, dealing a setback to opposition attempts to rally international pressure on President Nicolas Maduro.
Lilian Tintori posted a photo on Twitter of herself at Caracas' international airport holding a document signed by immigration officials ordering the seizure of her passport as she was preparing to board an afternoon flight. Tintori said she had a meeting planned for Monday in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron.
No explanation for the travel ban was given, but the move came a day after she was ordered to appear before a judge Tuesday to answer questions about a large sum of cash found in her vehicle.
Tintori, the wife of the nation's most-prominent detained activist, Leopoldo Lopez, said she was also scheduled to meet with the leaders of Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
"The evidence is clear why the dictatorship is stirring the pot against me," Tintori tweeted. "They want to keep me from talking about the humanitarian crisis we are living in Venezuela."
On Friday, Tintori received notice that she was being investigated after authorities discovered in her car some 200 million bolivars, around $60,000 at the nation's weakest official exchange rate or $10,000 at the widely used black market rate.
Tintori denounced the probe as politically motivated, pointing out in a video that it's not a crime to have cash in one's possession. She said the money, found in her car as it was parked at her mother-in-law's home, was to pay for family emergencies including the hospitalization of her 100-year-old grandmother.
Tintori suggested that other members of Venezuela's opposition would take her place at the meetings. Julio Borges, the opposition head of congress, said on Twitter Saturday that in the "coming days" he will meet with Macron, German's Angela Merkel, the United Kingdom's Theresa May and Spain's Mariano Rajoy.
"They cannot silence the voice of 30 million Venezuelans," Tintori said at a news conference. "Not even jail will stop our denunciation. ... They cannot hide the crisis our country is living through."
Macron, who expressed concern this week over what he called the "dictatorship" in Venezuela, said Saturday on Twitter: "We are waiting for Lilian Tintori in Europe. The Venezuelan opposition must remain free."
Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy, whose public schedule for Tuesday lists a meeting with Tintori and Borges, called the travel ban "sad."
"They can lock up people but not their ideals," Rajoy said on Twitter.