Venezuela jails two op­po­si­tion lead­ers

New Straits Times - - World -

US SEC­RE­TARY OF STATE REX TILLER­SON, on North Korea CARACAS: Venezuela jailed two lead­ing crit­ics of Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro on Tues­day in a fresh blow to the op­po­si­tion af­ter the elec­tion of a new po­lit­i­cal body with sweep­ing pow­ers to strengthen the hand of the left­ist gov­ern­ment.

The United States im­posed sanc­tions on Maduro on Mon­day, call­ing him a “dic­ta­tor” for Sun­day’s elec­tion of a con­stituent assem­bly that the op­po­si­tion boy­cotted and de­nounced as an af­front to democ­racy.

In a state­ment an­nounc­ing the jail­ing of op­po­si­tion leader Leopoldo Lopez and veteran politi­cian An­to­nio Ledezma, the pro-gov­ern­ment Supreme Court said they were plan­ning to flee the coun­try and had vi­o­lated terms of their house ar­rest by mak­ing po­lit­i­cal state­ments and speak­ing to me­dia.

But gov­ern­ment op­po­nents called the abrupt re­moval of the men from their homes by se­cu­rity forces in night-time raids a sign of Maduro’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to si­lence ri­vals.

It was a view shared by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who is­sued a state­ment con­demn­ing “the ac­tions of the Maduro dic­ta­tor­ship”.

“Mr Lopez and Mr Ledezma are po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers be­ing held il­le­gally by the regime,” it said, call­ing “for the im­me­di­ate and un­con­di­tional re­lease of all po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers”.

About 120 peo­ple had been killed in more than four months of anti-gov­ern­ment street protests, in­clud­ing at least 10 dur­ing Sun­day’s vote.

Maduro said the con­stituent assem­bly was de­signed to re­store peace to Venezuela.

Lopez and Ledezma had called for protests against Sun­day’s vote. Reuters

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