- Venezuelan intelligence agents arrested the vice president of the opposition-led national assembly on Wednesday.
- Authorities attempted to detain Edgar Zambrano as he drove out of the opposition party headquarters, but he refused to leave his car.
- His car was then towed directly into a Caracas prison with him still inside.
- The detention is part of a larger crackdown on opposition leaders who participated in last week’s failed military uprising.
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Venezuelan authorities arrested the vice president of the opposition-led national assembly on Wednesday – the first detention of a major opposition figure since last week’s failed military uprising against President Nicolás Maduro.
Edgar Zambrano was leaving his party’s headquarters in Caracas when agents from the SEBIN intelligence agency stopped his car, the politician tweeted. After he refused to leave his vehicle, security forces towed him to the infamous Helicoide prison.
“We democrats will keep fighting,” he said on Twitter.
Zambrano was among the high profile leaders who joined an attempted revolt against the socialist government last Tuesday, The Associated Press reported. He went to the Caracas bridge where opposition leader Juan Guaidó was calling for military defections, and thanked the small group of rebel soldiers who had changed allegiances.
The protest failed to spark any large scale defections.
- YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Maduro ally Diosdado Cabello confirmed on state television that Zambrano was arrested because of his involvement in the uprising.
“He was one of the principal bosses behind the coup,” Cabello said to loud applause. “The tow truck got him.”
Guaidó accused Maduro’s government of “kidnapping” his deputy, and undermining the people who voted opposition lawmakers into the national assembly. Guaidó and his supporters believe elections for other government bodies were rigged.
“With these actions, the usurpers want to affect the only democratic institution legitimized by the popular vote,” Guaidó tweeted.
Nuestra @AsambleaVE es el único poder electo en Venezuela. Con estas acciones, la usurpación pretende afectar a la única institución democrática legitimada por el voto popular. Y el compañero Zambrano cuenta con un elemento sagrado que el usurpador no conoce: el apoyo del Pueblo.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) May 9, 2019
The US State Department said Zambrano’s detention was “illegal and inexcusable.”
“If he is not freed immediately, there will be consequences,” the American embassy in Venezuela tweeted.
Wednesday’s arrest is part of a larger crackdown in response to the unsuccessful revolt.
The Constituent Assembly, stacked with Maduro loyalists, had already revoked parliamentary immunity from Zambrano and six other lawmakers so they could be prosecuted, The Guardian reported. The opposition does not recognize the decision.
The Maduro government also said it was investigating Zambrano and eight other opposition leaders for “betraying the homeland” and “instigating insurrection,” according to the AP.
Guaidó believes he hasn’t been arrested yet because Maduro fears retaliation.
“Because they’re scared. Those that try to spread or generate a perception of control are the ones that don’t have it,” Guaidó told CNN.
The US, Guaidó’s most important international backer, has already threatened military intervention in Venezuela if other avenues for Maduro’s removal do not succeed.