Maduro cracks down
Venezuelan opposition leaders dragged from beds, imprisoned
CARACAS — Teams of heavily armed security agents seized two of Venezuela’s top opposition leaders from their homes in the middle of the night Tuesday, dragging one into the street in his pyjamas as President Nicolas Maduro’s government defied U.S. sanctions and international condemnation of a plan to assume nearly unlimited powers.
Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were being held at the Ramo Verde military prison south of the capital, accused by the government-allied Supreme Court of violating the terms of their house arrest by plotting to escape and releasing video statements criticizing Maduro.
Both men’s allies denied the charges and vowed to continue to try to push the ruling party from power. But they gave little indication of how they planned to do that, and the capital was unusually quiet after months of sometimes violent protests.
While the U.S. and some Latin American allies condemned the arrests, many other nations and international organizations were silent or limited themselves to expressions of concern.
Lopez’s supporters released a video he taped last week saying he expected to be imprisoned again soon, and calling on Venezuelans to be firm in resisting Maduro.
“If you are looking at this video now, it’s precisely because that occurred, because they came and they illegally imprisoned me again unjustly, a prisoner of consciousness, a prisoner for my ideas, a prisoner for wanting a better Venezuela,” the 46-yearold Lopez said.
He also said his wife, Lilian Tintori, is pregnant. He called the pregnancy “the best news I’ve received in the last 3½ years” — the time he spent behind bars before being released to house arrest last month. The couple had been allowed some conjugal visits.
Many human rights groups considered Lopez to be a political prisoner.
Ledezma, 62, was also detained in 2015 and has been under house arrest.
Like Lopez, he had recently posted a video denouncing the vote.
Shortly after midnight, black-clad members of Venezuela’s state security force forced Ledezma from his east Caracas home in his blue pyjamas, yanking him out into the night as a woman screamed for help.
“They’re taking Ledezma!” the woman can be heard crying on a cellphone video released by Ledezma’s allies. “It’s a dictatorship!”
Lopez’s wife posted security-camera video of him being taken from their home and bundled into a waiting car.
Venezuela’s opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez holds a national flag as he greets supporters outside his home in Caracas, Venezuela, following his release from prison after more than three years in military lockup. Inset, Antonio Ledezma was also rearrested.
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