June 5, 2020 / 9:36 AM / 2 months ago

France denies harbouring Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido in Caracas

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's National Assembly President and opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognised as the country's rightful interim ruler, gestures as he speaks during a demonstration in Caracas, Venezuela March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - France denied on Friday that Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido had taken refuge at any of its diplomatic sites in Caracas after the Venezuelan foreign minister said he was hiding in the French Embassy.

“Mr Juan Guaido is not at the French residence in Caracas,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in a statement. “We have repeatedly confirmed this to the Venezuelan authorities.”

A French diplomatic source clarified that Guaido was not in any French sites in the South American country.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told Union Radio on Thursday that Guaido was in the French embassy and also accused Spain of harbouring Leopoldo Lopez, another opponent of the government.

“It is shameful for Spanish diplomacy, it is shameful for the diplomacy of France what has happened, and they will pay the price very, very soon,” Arreaza said.

France in May summoned Venezuela’s envoy over accusations President Nicolas Maduro’s government had been harassing its embassy in Caracas, including by cutting water and electricity to the ambassador’s residence.

France is among dozens of nations that do not recognise Maduro’s disputed 2018 re-election and consider Guaido to be Venezuela’s rightful president.

Maduro has previously accused French Ambassador Romain Nadal of meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs.

Von der Muhll, the French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, added: “Only a democratic path with free, transparent and credible elections will enable it (political crisis) to be resolved in the long-term and put an end to the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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