Sun, May 12, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Venezuela braces for more unrest amid clampdown

AFP, CARACAS

Venezuela yesterday braced for another day of nationwide protests after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro clamped down further on Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaido, locking up his deputy in a military prison following a dramatic arrest.

Venezuelan National Assembly Deputy Speaker Edgar Zambrano was being held in preventive detention for “the flagrant commission of the crimes of treason, conspiracy and civil rebellion,” the Venezuelan Supreme Court said in a statement announcing the verdict of a lower court.

Zambrano was on Wednesday arrested by Maduro’s SEBIN intelligence service in dramatic circumstances for supporting the April 30 revolt organized by US-backed Guaido.

Maduro also accused his sacked intelligence chief of being a CIA “mole.”

He said Venezuelan General Christopher Figuera was “the one who orchestrated the coup d’etat” by contacting the group of about 30 members of the armed forces who joined Guaido’s mass demonstration.

“He was captured by the CIA a year ago and was working as a traitor, mole and infiltrator,” Maduro said of Figuera, whose defection to the opposition saw him rewarded by the US, which removed him from its sanctions list.

The latest regime actions ratcheted up tensions ahead of a national demonstration Guaido called for yesterday to reject measures taken by the Supreme Court against opposition lawmakers.

Zambrano is one of 10 charged by the court for participating in the April 30 movement.

He was transferred to the Caracas headquarters of the military police, Fort Tiuna, the court said.

One of the other charged lawmakers, Luis Florido, announced in a video on Friday that he had fled to neighboring Colombia, “sheltered from a regime that is willing to imprison deputies,” he said.

Three others — Richard Blanco, Mariela Magallanes and Americo De Grazia — have sought refuge in the Argentine and Italian embassies in Caracas.

Zambrano’s lawyer, Lilia Camejo, denounced the procedure under which Zambrano, a civilian, was sent to a military prison, and said his rights had been violated.

“From the moment of the arrest, they have violated the deputy’s rights. We did not have access to the file, nor could we be appointed in his defense,” Camejo told reporters.

Guaido on Thursday said that the arrests were part of a bid by Maduro to dismantle the assembly, the country’s sole opposition-controlled institution, but one which had already been rendered powerless by the pro-Maduro Supreme Court.

“If we can talk about a coup d’etat in Venezuela, here it is: the dismantling of the national parliament,” Guaido told a news conference, accusing Maduro’s regime of “state terrorism.”

The increase in repression “may be a precursor” to targeting Guaido himself, said Latin American analyst Risa Grais-Targow of Eurasia Group. “Zambrano’s arrest may be a test to gauge the response of the international community before it moves against Guaido.”

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