Venezuela sends two top opposition leaders back to jail
CARACAS: Venezuela’s intelligence service has returned two opposition leaders recognized in jail Tuesday prompted an international protest, while President Nicolas Maduro has decided to strengthen its power after a widely denounced election as a search.
The raids, carried out in the dark, not just one day before Sunday a new elected assembly is supposed to take office, replacing the legislature controlled by the opposition.
In a statement, the Supreme Court said protest chief Leopoldo Lopez and Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma were sent to jail for violating the conditions of their house arrest for making political statements.
Authorities acted urgently, he said, because they had received information that the couple “had a flight plan” – something that male lawyers vehemently denied.
In a prerecorded video that if sent back to prison, Lopez has urged his followers to continue fighting against the Maduro government.
“If you see the video, it is because they are illegal and unjustly and returned to prison. I am a political prisoner,” he said.
“We must not give up the fight, we should never give up, we should not force ourselves to demand a better Venezuela.”
López, founder of the Harvard People’s Party, also announced that his wife, Lilian Tintori, was pregnant, calling it “the best news” since being arrested in 2014 and “another reason to fight for Venezuela.”
The men are two of the opposition leaders in Venezuela. Both had called for a boycott of the votes on Sunday for a powerful “constituent assembly” in charge of rewriting the constitution.
The United States, which has already imposed sanctions against Maduro and officials were discontented in their reaction to the latest news.
President Donald Trump has severely warned of the “dictatorship” Maduro considered personally responsible for the health and safety of the two men.
“M. Lopez and M. Ledezma are political prisoners illegally detained by the regime,” Trump said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the Maduro administration to “reduce tensions” and “find avenues for political dialogue,” a call echoing the spokesperson for Mogherini Federica UE.
Spain said it would support EU sanctions.
López and Ledezma were captured by the intelligence service known by their initials Sebin, said their relatives, adding that they had Maduro responsible for the lives of the men.
“They just took Leopoldo, we do not know where he is or where they are driving,” Tintori said on Twitter.
She has published images of the home security camera in which four uniformed police officers and three civilian boys are seen putting their husband in a car and removing other cars, escorting them.
The Ledezma family also unveiled a video cell phone in which the mayor is transported from the house in a pair of blue pajamas while his neighbors were shouting.