Venezue­lan op­po­si­tion head briefly held

Video al­legedly shows gun­men tak­ing Guaido

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - WORLD - By Fabi­ola Sanchez and Joshua Good­man The As­so­ci­ated Press

CARA­CAS, Venezuela — The new head of Venezuela’s in­creas­ingly de­fi­ant congress was pulled from his ve­hi­cle and briefly de­tained by po­lice Sun­day, a day af­ter the U.S. backed him as­sum­ing the pres­i­dency as a way out of the coun­try’s deep­en­ing cri­sis.

The con­fus­ing in­ci­dent, which drew swift in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion, is bound to ramp up ten­sions be­tween the op­po­si­tion and gov­ern­ment fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro’s swear­ing in this month for a sec­ond term.

A video cir­cu­lat­ing on social me­dia pur­ports to show the mo­ment in which Juan Guaido is in­ter­cepted on his way to an anti-gov­ern­ment town hall meet­ing in La Guaira.

In the video shot on a cell­phone by a mo­torist, sev­eral armed men in ski masks are seen strug­gling to shut the door on some­one be­ing pushed into an SUV be­fore rac­ing down a high­way.

While it was not pos­si­ble to iden­tify Guaido in the 33-sec­ond video, his wife, Fabi­ana Ros­ales, said on Twit­ter that he had been de­tained by a com­mando unit of the feared SE­BIN in­tel­li­gence po­lice. As news of his de­ten­tion spread, he was then re­leased.

“We are go­ing to ful­fill our con­sti­tu­tional du­ties,” Guaido said to a group of cheer­ing sup­port­ers at the rally. “We are sur­vivors, not vic­tims, and we are go­ing to move this coun­try for­ward.”

Adding to the con­fu­sion, the gov­ern­ment tried to shift blame, with Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Jorge Ro­driguez say­ing that the “me­dia show” had per­haps been or­ches­trated to pro­voke an in­ter­na­tional up­roar.

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo called on Venezuela’s se­cu­rity forces to up­hold their cit­i­zens’ con­sti­tu­tional rights. “The U.S. and the world are watch­ing,” he said.

A coali­tion of 13 Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries and Canada con­demned Guaido’s “ar­bi­trary” de­ten­tion. In a state­ment, the Lima Group re­jected any “pres­sure or co­er­cion that pre­vents the full and nor­mal ex­er­cise of their pow­ers as an or­gan con­sti­tu­tion­ally and le­git­i­mately elected in Venezuela.”

At the rally Sun­day af­ter the in­ci­dent, Guaido told The As­so­ci­ated Press that the SE­BIN agents in­formed him they were car­ry­ing out or­ders from above when they ar­rested him.

“They tried to put me in hand­cuffs,” he told the crowd. “But I didn’t let them be­cause I’m pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Assem­bly.”

Fernando Llano The As­so­ci­ated Press

Na­tional Assem­bly Pres­i­dent Juan Guaido, top left, is sur­rounded Sun­day by body­guards as he leaves an op­po­si­tion rally in Cara­balleda, Venezuela. The U.S. has backed the idea of him as­sum­ing the pres­i­dency to end the coun­try’s deep­en­ing cri­sis.

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