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  • Former Presidents Sebastian Pinera of Chile (L) and Andres Pastrana of Colombia, are stopped by national guard soldiers outside the military prison of Ramo Verde on the outskirts of Caracas Jan. 25, 2015.

    Former Presidents Sebastian Pinera of Chile (L) and Andres Pastrana of Colombia, are stopped by national guard soldiers outside the military prison of Ramo Verde on the outskirts of Caracas Jan. 25, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 January 2015

Former right-wing presidents of Chile and Colombia attempted to visit an opposition leader in prison without obtaining the necessary permits.

In what Venezuelan Communications Minister Jacqueline Farias called a “media circus,” conservative former Presidents Sebastian Pinera of Chile and Andres Pastrana of Colombia were unable access the prison where Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is currently imprisoned.

Lopez was jailed after staging violent protests designed to destabilize the government that resulted in 43 deaths across the country.

Both presidents are participating in a forum that began Jan. 26 in Caracas which was organized by the Venezuelan right-wing opposition front Unity Table (Mesa de Unidad, MUD).

The presidents claimed that the government’s decision to block their visit limited their human rights.

"Leopoldo Lopez is a politician, one can disagree with his ideas but that does not provide the right to deprive him of his freedom," said Pinera at the entrance to the Ramo Verde military prison.

However, Farias confirmed that neither man attempted to obtain the necessary permission before visiting the prison.

“The rules of the (prison) indicate that visiting days are for family members of the detained, not for just any visitor, who would require permission in advance, something the family members of the detained are aware of,” Farias told the hoyvenezuela website.

Yet Lopez's family members brought the two former presidents to the prison despite knowing the visitors policy, the minister explained. Lopez is charged with inciting crime and being the mastermind behind the violent protests that began last February.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Friday that the former presidents' visit was part of an effort to support right-wing factions that are working to destabilize his democratically-elected government.

Venezuelans gathered in a public plaza Sunday to show their displeasure with the presence of these two conservative former presidents in their country, along with former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

“The Venezuelan people have hit the streets in great numbers today in order to reject interference by North American imperialism, who send three of their minions,” said Hendrik Figueredo, a member of the youth wing of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela.  

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