Venezuelan prosecutors have announced accusations of “terrorism” and “treason” against a prominent opposition politician after intelligence agents arrested him from his car on the Caracas highway.
In a statement Monday, Attorney General Tarek Saab said Freddy Guevara was detained by members of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) because of “his links with extremist and paramilitary groups associated with the Colombian government.”
“He will be charged with terrorism offenses, attacks on constitutional order, conspiracy to commit a crime and treason,” the statement said.
Guevara, a close ally of opposition leader Juan Guaido, posted on social media from his car while secret police intercepted him on a road in Caracas.
“Greetings to my family, I am very sorry that you are going through this suffering, I hope it is brief,” the 35-year-old said on a live broadcast.
A spokesman for Guaido’s office said Guevara, who was pardoned less than a year ago on charges of instigating the violence, was taken to the Helicopter Prison of Sebin’s intelligence service in Caracas.
The attorney general did not specify where he was detained.
Separately, Guaido also said Monday before unidentified gunmen threatened him with arrest while trying to leave his apartment to help Guevara.
Videos released by his office showed at least two men in bulletproof vests and balaclavas in the basement of the Guaido building approaching his car and pointing assault rifles.
One of the men opened the driver’s door and forced the driver to the ground, shouting “Get out !,” the videos showed.
The Venezuelan Ministry of Information did not respond to any requests for comment.
Talks in Mexico
The incidents took place as the Venezuelan government and opposition prepared for negotiations scheduled for next month in Mexico with the mediation of Norway, people familiar with the incident told Reuters news agency last week. subject. The talks are aimed at resolving the deep political crisis in the South American country.
President Nicolas Maduro, in an appearance on state television on Monday, confirmed the negotiation plans, but said the opposition should give up violent tactics before talks. Without naming Guevara or Guaido, he said he had evidence that some actors were plotting coups and said prosecutors acted on the basis of that evidence.
“I agree with the table of Mexico and Norway, but there must be conditions, there must be an express renunciation of violent practices,” Maduro said.
The Venezuelan government had previously linked Guevara and his political mentor Leopoldo Lopez, who is now in exile in Spain, to violent clashes last week in a Caracas neighborhood that left at least 26 dead.
“They want to disguise themselves as Democrats,” but “they ally with criminals,” Maduro said without directly mentioning Guevara’s case.
“Some of these sectors … we have forgiven them for previous causes, but they are forgiven … and they immediately join in the search for criminals, paying violent groups and preparing murders,” he said.
The U.S.-backed opposition calls Maduro a dictator, alleging that he chose the 2018 re-election and uses the judicial system to stifle dissent. But Maduro, who retains military support, denies the election was rigged and has accused Guaido of conspiring with the United States to withdraw him in a coup.
“Threats will not stop us”
When Guevara’s arrest was announced, Guaido’s wife, Fabiana Rosales, tweeted that security forces had entered her apartment building east of Caracas.
Today we live hours of anguish, the siege, the persecution, the attempted arrest of the President today in the basement of my house, are signs of a dictatorship that persecutes, assassinates and imprisons, today they fired long guns at my house. pic.twitter.com/jR8pqETrhE
– Fabiana Rosales (@FabiiRosales) July 13, 2021
Reporters arrived at the scene minutes later and neighbors gathered in protest around two unmarked white trucks with men carrying bulletproof vests and assault rifles, some inside balaclavas.
Others wore hats called DIE, the Spanish acronym for the police unit of the Directorate of Intelligence and Strategy.
Shortly afterwards, an unmarked gray Toyota truck, full of police, came out of the basement garage, exiting the residential complex.
Then Guaido got out of an SUV and told reporters the men had left. He said it was unclear to which branch of the security forces they belonged.
“They intercepted us and pointed their guns at us in the basement,” Guaido said.
The US denounced the actions against Guevara and Guaido.
“We strongly condemn the arrest of Venezuelan Congressman Freddy Guevara and the threats against interim President Juan Guaido in Venezuela,” Julie Chung, acting secretary of the Western Hemisphere Affairs Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs, wrote on Twitter. ‘State of the United States.
He urged the international community to join in the condemnation of the events and called for the release of all political prisoners in Venezuela.