Rogue ar­rest of US pick to re­place Maduro

The Australian - - WORLD -

CARA­CAS: The pres­i­dent of the op­po­si­tion-con­trolled but side­lined Na­tional As­sem­bly was de­tained by Venezue­lan in­tel­li­gence agents for about an hour yes­ter­day, a day after the US backed him as­sum­ing the pres­i­dency as a way out of the coun­try’s cri­sis.

But Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro’s gov­ern­ment de­nied any knowl­edge of the op­er­a­tion.

“We have learned that there was a sit­u­a­tion in which a group of of­fi­cials act­ing in a uni­lat­eral man­ner con­ducted an ir­reg­u­lar pro­ce­dure,” said Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Jorge Ro­driguez. He said of­fi­cers from the SE­BIN in­tel­li­gence ser­vice “are be­ing dis­missed and sub­jected to a stricter dis­ci­plinary pro­ce­dure” after hav­ing pro­voked a “me­dia cir­cus”.

Fol­low­ing his re­lease, Juan Guaido was met by hun­dreds of sup­port­ers at the rally he had been head­ing to when he was in­ter­cepted on a high­way by armed and hooded men in two Venezue­lan in­tel­li­gence ser­vice ve­hi­cles. He was de­tained while trav­el­ling to Cara­balleda, 40km from the cap­i­tal, Cara­cas. “They forced us to get out. They did not hit him, but they told us they had to pro­ceed with his im­me­di­ate ar­rest,” his wife Fabi­ana Ros­ales said.

“The dic­ta­tor­ship can­not break his fight­ing spirit.”

Mr Guaido had di­rectly chal­lenged the le­git­i­macy of Mr Maduro as the pres­i­dent was sworn in for a sec­ond term on Fri­day, call­ing the next day for a tran­si­tional gov­ern­ment ahead of new elec­tions.

“So Maduro no longer con­trols the armed forces be­cause the chain of com­mand was bro­ken,” Mr Guaido told the rally in Cara­balleda. “Who is com­mand­ing the regime now? If they’re al­ready ad­mit­ting that they don’t con­trol the state’s se­cu­rity agen­cies, there’s a se­ri­ous prob­lem at Mi­raflo­res (pres­i­den­tial palace).”

Mr Maduro dis­missed what he called “ha­tred” and “lies”. “No­body should be­come hooked on ha­tred and on lies. We are go­ing to get hooked on Venezuela’s pros­per­ity,” he said.

US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo de­nounced the “ar­bi­trary” de­ten­tion. “We call on se­cu­rity forces to up­hold the con­sti­tu­tion and rights of the Venezue­lan peo­ple. The US and world are watch­ing,” he tweeted.

Mr Maduro was re-elected in May in a vote boy­cotted by the op­po­si­tion, whose best known lead­ers were barred from run­ning, un­der house ar­rest or in ex­ile.

The out­come was widely crit­i­cised as marred by fraud and voter in­tim­i­da­tion, with the US, EU and Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Amer­i­can States re­fus­ing to recog­nise it.

Mr Maduro, though, re­tains the sup­port of the mil­i­tary high com­mand, which re­it­er­ated its “loy­alty” to him last week.

As part of his call for the mil­i­tary to sever ties with Mr Maduro, Mr Guaido said the as­sem­bly would pass an amnesty law for mil­i­tary mem­bers im­pris­oned for con­spir­acy.

Mr Maduro is blamed for the coun­try’s eco­nomic cri­sis, with ba­sic food and medicine scarce and hy­per­in­fla­tion es­ti­mated to reach 10 mil­lion per cent this year.

AP

Juan Guaido and wife Fabi­ana Ros­ales at yes­ter­day’s rally

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