Venezuela ar­rests two top op­po­si­tion lead­ers

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Venezue­lan in­tel­li­gence ser­vice ar­rested two prom­i­nent op­po­si­tion lead­ers early yes­ter­day, their rel­a­tives said, a day after a vote to choose a much-con­demned as­sem­bly that su­per­sedes par­lia­ment. Leopoldo Lopez and An­to­nio Ledezma were both al­ready un­der house ar­rest when they were picked up by the in­tel­li­gence ser­vice known by its in acro­nym Se­bin, the wife of Lopez and chil­dren of Ledezma said sep­a­rately.

The two men are Venezuela’s most high pro­file op­po­si­tion lead­ers. Both had called for a boy­cott of Sun­day’s vote for a so-called and all-pow­er­ful con­stituent as­sem­bly tasked with rewrit­ing the con­sti­tu­tion. Both of their fam­i­lies said they held Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro, the driv­ing force be­hind the vote, responsible for the lead­ers’ lives.

“They just took Leopoldo away. We do not know where he is or where they are tak­ing him,” Lopez’s wife Lil­ian Tin­tori said on Twit­ter. She re­leased home se­cu­rity cam­era footage in which four uni­formed po­lice of­fi­cers and three in civil­ian garb are seen putting her hus­band into a Se­bin car and take off, with other cars es­cort­ing them. The chil­dren of Ledez­manamed Vic­tor, Vanessa and An­toni­et­taalso said on Twit­ter that the Se­bin had taken away their fa­ther.

Op­po­si­tion lead­ers and lo­cal me­dia posted cell­phone footage of Ledezma being taken away from his home forcibly while still wear­ing pa­ja­mas. Lopez, 46, was trans­ferred to house ar­rest in July of this year after serv­ing three years and five months in prison as part of a 14-year term. He had been con­victed of in­sti­gat­ing vi­o­lence dur­ing protests against Maduro in 2014 that left 43 peo­ple dead.

Ledezma, 62, was ar­rested in Fe­bru­ary 2015 on charges of con­spir­acy and rack­e­teer­ing and was placed un­der house ar­rest three months later for health rea­sons. Op­po­si­tion law­maker Freddy Gue­vara said the ar­rests were aimed at “fright­en­ing us and de­mor­al­iz­ing us.”

Four months of street demon­stra­tions against Maduro have left 120 peo­ple dead, in­clud­ing 10 over the week­end that in­cluded the elec­tion.

The op­po­si­tion says the vote was a fraud­u­lent ploy by Maduro to cling to power be­cause, it ar­gues, he is so un­pop­u­lar he could not win an elec­tion. The next one is sched­uled for 2018. The new con­stituent as­sem­bly is to start work­ing to­day. It is made up only of mem­bers of Maduro’s So­cial­ist party. The op­po­si­tion has called a big rally for that day.

‘Im­pe­rial or­ders’

The United States hit Maduro with di­rect sanc­tions to­day over the week­end vote, call­ing him a “dic­ta­tor,” while the leader re­fused to heed what he slammed as “im­pe­rial or­ders.” The mea­sures were un­usual in that they tar­geted a sit­ting head of state, but their reach was mostly sym­bolic, freez­ing any US as­sets Maduro might have and ban­ning peo­ple un­der US ju­ris­dic­tion from deal­ing with him. — AFP

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