Venezuela: Maduro regime has 'kidnapped' national assembly vice president, says Guaidó

Cheryl Sanders
May 12, 2019

"This Saturday we will return to the streets to defend our National Assembly", opposition leader Juan Guaido wrote on Twitter.

The move drew swift condemnation from opposition leaders and the United States, which argues Maduro is a dictator who has undermined the rule of law.

His arrest on Wednesday night was dramatic.

"He was captured by the Central Intelligence Agency a year ago and was working as a traitor, mole and infiltrator", Maduro said of Figuera, whose defection to the opposition saw him rewarded earlier this week by the U.S., which removed him from its sanctions list.

On Wednesday, Edgar Zambrano, the opposition-run National Assembly's vice president, said he had been arrested by intelligence agents.

The newspaper also said Trump is not comfortable with increased escalation in Venezuela, due to the risk it poses in creating a proxy fight with Russian Federation, which arms Maduro's government.

Blanco and Zambrano are among 10 opposition lawmakers stripped of parliamentary immunity by the Supreme Court this week.

Mr Guaido invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January, denouncing Mr Maduro's rule as illegitimate after he secured re-election previous year in a vote widely viewed as fraudulent. He has been recognized by most Western and Latin American countries, but Maduro has retained the support of allies China, Russia and Cuba.

"The existing external and internal pressures have not been enough to convince Maduro and his inner circle to negotiate their exit ramp".

Separately on Friday, Venezuela announced it was reopening its land border with Brazil.

Figuera and 55 other officers have been expelled from the Venezuelan armed forces. That border was closed in February, frustrating Guaido's attempt to bring stockpiled humanitarian aid, mostly from the U.S., across the border.

However, the border with Colombia and links with other parts of the former Dutch Antilles - closed at the same time on Maduro's orders - will remain shut, El Aissami said.

Maduro had dismissed the delivery of humanitarian aid as pretext for a U.S. incursion, before last month accepting the first of a series of aid deliveries organized by the Red Cross.

Venezuela has suffered more than four years of recession marked by shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.

The Trump administration blames Mr Maduro's socialist policies and government mismanagement for Venezuela's economic crunch, warning that 2 million more people are expected to flee by the end of the year if the crisis continues.

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