Tensions flared once again on Wednesday between the United States and Venezuela as Donald Trump called for the release of a jailed Venezuela opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. President Nicolas Maduro warned the new US leader not to provoke him.
President Donald Trump met unexpectedly Wednesday night at the White House with Lilian Tintori,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.“Venezuela should allow Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner & husband of @liliantintori (just met w/ @marcorubio) out of prison immediately,” Trump tweeted.
The meeting with Tintori was sure to enrage Maduro, who is already fuming over sanctions slapped on his powerful Vice President Tareck El Aissami, whom US authorities accuse of being involved in drug trafficking.
Lopez, the founder of Popular Will, one of the most hardline of the parties opposing Maduro, is serving a 14-year prison term on charges of inciting unrest at anti-government protests that left 43 people dead in early 2014.Leopoldo Lopez,is considered a political maverick and has long been a thorn in the side of Venezuelan government.
Shortly before Trump sent the tweet about Lopez, Maduro had warned the US leader that he would respond with a firm hand to any action by Washington he deemed to be aggressive, though he said he did not want any “problems.”
“If they attack us, we will not be silent. Venezuela will respond firmly. Those who tangle with us will get an appropriate response,” Maduro said on state television.
Diplomatic rows have become somewhat commonplace over the past 20 years between Venezuela’s leftist leaders and Washington, the “imperialist” power they love to hate. They have not traded ambassadors since 2010.