CARACAS, Venezuela — Top Venezuelan opposition leaders plan to meet with European leaders this week to denounce human rights abuses under President Nicolás Maduro, as his government continues a crackdown on dissent.
Julio Borges and Freddy Guevara — the president and vice president of the National Assembly, a body dispossessed of its power by Maduro loyalists — have scheduled a meeting Monday in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron. Later in the week, they expect to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Madrid, German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, and British Prime Minister Theresa May in London.
The talks come as a new pro-government “truth commission” is investigating Borges, Guevara and other leading opposition members for charges of treason because of their support for U.S. sanctions. They have also been accused of seeking American military intervention — a charge they deny.
Critics call the probes part of an escalating effort in Venezuela to silence dissent.
An open letter published by the opposition-dominated National Assembly called for more international pressure against Maduro’s government in light of the treason investigations.
“We hope to count on your essential support in denouncing this new advance of the Maduro tyranny, and in intensifying all efforts to keep pressuring the Venezuelan regime to respect the Constitution, recognize the right of the National Assembly, free political prisoners, permit the opening of humanitarian aid for food and medicine, and accept the conducting of free, universal elections,” the statement said.
The European Union has said it would not recognize a contentious July 30 vote creating a new super congress called the Constituent Assembly that is completely loyal to Maduro. But it has thus far refrained from following the United States by slapping sanctions on the country.
Macron, in particular, has recently sounded a tougher note, saying in a foreign policy speech last week that “our citizens don’t understand how some have been so complacent with the regime being installed in Venezuela . . . a dictatorship that intends to stay afloat through human suffering with no precedent and a preoccupying radicalization of ideology.”
Activist Lilian Tintori, wife of Leopoldo Lopez — a top opposition leader who is under house arrest — said she was stopped at the Caracas airport on her way to join the delegation in Europe.
“I was just prohibited from leaving the country,” Tintori, four months pregnant, tweeted Saturday evening. At a news conference soon afterward, she said three national policemen with no judicial order had informed her that she was barred from leaving Venezuelan soil and seized her passport.
Tintori, who travels frequently to denounce human rights violations in Venezuela, is now one of at least five prominent opposition activists who have been barred from travel in recent months.
No specific reason was given by the government for seizing Tintori’s passport. But the move came after she was called to appear at a Caracas court following an announcement that intelligence police had found a sum equivalent to $11,000 at Venezuela’s black-market rate in her car last Tuesday.
In a video statement, Tintori confirmed the cash had been in her car but said the money was to pay for her grandmother’s hospital bills.
“It’s not a crime to possess cash. It’s not a crime to have cash in your van, in your home,” she said. “I’m not a public figure. I’m a mom, a wife and a human rights activist. They’re seeking to damage us, humiliate us.”
European leaders denounced the ban on Tintori’s departure. “We’re waiting for Lilian Tintori in Europe,” Macron tweeted Saturday night. “The Venezuelan opposition has to stay free.”
It remained unclear how Borges and Guevara had managed to leave Venezuela, or when they would return. Neither responded to a request for comment.
Guevara said in a tweet that he would raise Tintori’s case — as well as the human rights abuses she has documented — with European leaders.
“International pressure will be the key to achieve freedom,” he said. “We will keep informing. Long live Venezuela!”
Faiola reported from Miami.