Trump Calls for Release of Venezuela Opposition Leader Lopez

  • Trump posted photo on Twitter with Pence, Rubio, Lopez’s wife
  • Venezuela president says opposition seeks to pit him vs Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday called on Venezuela’s government to “immediately” release jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Trump, writing on Twitter, posted a photo of himself, Vice President Mike Pence, Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Lilian Tintori, Lopez’s wife, at the White House. He said Rubio and Tintori had met beforehand. Lopez was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of inciting violence. Lopez has maintained his innocence.

“If you ask me, do you want to fight with Mr. Trump? No,” President Nicolas Maduro, said on state television before Trump’s Twitter post. “Venezuela wants respectful relations on equal terms with the new administration.” Maduro called on Trump to “open your eyes and open your ears” to avoid the mistakes of previous U.S. administrations and not let himself be fooled by Venezuela’s far right.

Maduro, who frequently blames Venezuela’s ills on the U.S., had said little about the new administration until today. The Venezuelan leader fiercely defended his vice president and spoke scornfully about his treatment a day after the U.S. Treasury accused Tareck El Aissami of being a drug kingpin. Maduro said he would work to get the sanctions reversed.

Venezuela’s telecommunications regulator earlier Wednesday ordered CNN en Espanol off the air nationwide, saying it was investigating the network for allegedly broadcasting content “attacking the peace and democratic stability” of Venezuelans. Maduro said CNN was working with the U.S. State Department to promote “incorrect policy” against Venezuela.

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