Venezuela Police Threaten Guaido, Detain Top Opposition Aide

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said heavily-armed security officers penetrated his apartment building, threatening him with arrest, and detained Freddy Guevara, a top lieutenant, in a separate operation.

Surrounded by neighbors who came to support him, Guaido said the men coming for him had set off an explosive. He reported no injury. Those who took Guevara pointed long weapons at him.

Guevara, a former vice president of the national assembly and number two in Guaido’s party, was detained while broadcasting from his car on a Caracas highway, according to a tweet and press release from the party.

“Thugs of the Nicolas Maduro dictatorship arrest lawmaker Freddy Guevara,” the National Communication Center, Guaido’s press office, wrote on Twitter.

Guevara posted a video on Instagram showing himself inside his vehicle when armed men forced him out. He’ll be charged with terrorism, attacking the constitutional order and treason, according to a statement published on Twitter by Public Prosecutor Tarek William Saab. He was detained for his “links with extremist and paramilitary groups associated with the Colombian government.”

The actions come during a European Union visit on the possibility of an observer mission for planned local and state elections in November. European delegates are holding talks with the government and opposition as well as human rights activists.

“We strongly condemn the arrest of Venezuelan Congressman Freddy Guevara and threats against Interim President Juan Guaido in Venezuela. We urge the international community to join us in condemning these acts and demanding the release of all those detained for political reasons,” Julie Chung, Acting Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, said on Twitter.

The opposition is divided on whether to take part in the elections, fearful of legitimizing the regime on the one hand, and losing out on winning some offices, on the other.

Venezuela Police Threaten Guaido, Detain Top Opposition Aide

Neither the information ministry nor the public prosecutor’s office responded to requests for comment on Monday’s events.

Maduro’s government has accused Guaido of leading coup attempts and assassination plans against the socialist leader several times, including an apparent invasion attempt in May when more than 30 people were detained.

Last week, Caracas was shaken by three days of shootings between gangs and security forces. Interior Minister Carmen Melendez blamed “right-wing groups.” Authorities killed 22 people, Melendez said.

Maduro said hours after Guevara’s arrest that a “sector of the right” was financing attacks by armed groups against military personnel and civilians during the clashes in Caracas.

‘In Our Hands’

“We know that a sector of the right financed these criminal gangs to carry out terrorist operations,” Maduro said during a committee meeting of the National Assembly, controlled by his allies. “We have the evidence in our hands.”

Several of Guaido’s closest allies, including his uncle Juan Marquez and his former right-hand man Roberto Marrero were detained for months. Marrero fled the country soon after being released in a recent wave of pardons; his uncle remains under house arrest.

Guaido and Guevara’s political mentor, Leopoldo Lopez, fled from his refuge at the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas in October after escaping from house arrest.

Guevara was a refugee in the Chilean Embassy between November 2017 and August 2020, after leading protests against Maduro and receiving threats of detention. Maduro pardoned him along with more than 100 others after an agreement with segments of the opposition.

”We have pardoned some of these sectors from previous cases, but they were pardoned and immediately started looking for criminals,” Maduro said Monday.

Venezuela has some 300 political prisoners, according to Penal Forum. The United Nations has reported that security forces, especially FAES, often resort to torture or inhuman treatment, including electric shocks, suffocation, beatings and sexual violence to extract confessions.

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