Politics

Trump calls for release of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader

President Donald Trump tweeted a photograph of himself, Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the Oval Office with Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López.
President Donald Trump tweeted a photograph of himself, Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the Oval Office with Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López. @realDonaldTrump on Twitter

President Donald Trump met unexpectedly Wednesday night at the White House with the wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, and called for his release.

The president tweeted a photograph of himself, Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the Oval Office with Lilian Tintori, who was making the rounds in Washington to keep up U.S. attention on her husband’s case.

Trump’s schedule didn’t list a meeting with Tintori — but it did include dinner with Rubio, one of the most vocal critics in Congress against the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. A Rubio spokesman said Wednesday night that Rubio asked Trump and Pence to meet with Tintori, and they agreed.

In a series of tweets, Tintori thanked the president and vice president and said she told them about the “humanitarian crisis” in Venezuela, including the scarcity of food and medicine and the plight of political prisoners.

“They expressed their concern for the injustice and torture that Leopoldo has been subjected to,” she wrote, noting in three days will be his three-year anniversary in jail.

Rubio told a Gannett reporter Wednesday that the dinner — which included his wife, Jeanette, and First Lady Melania Trump — was a “social invitation.”

“Whatever we discuss, I’m not going to tell you,” Rubio told Gannett’s Ledyard King.

Earlier Wednesday, Tintori and Mitzy Ledezma, the wife of jailed Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, went to Capitol Hill, where they sat down with several lawmakers, including Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Weston Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz — all of whom, like Rubio, represent a growing number of Venezuelan Americans. Ledezma has been detained since 2015.

On Monday, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions against Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, accusing him of being a drug lord. On Wednesday, Maduro called those allegations a “grotesque lie.”

Separately, the Maduro administration on Wednesday suspended CNN en Español from the South American country's airwaves, following an investigative report into fake passports issued by the Venezuelan government.

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