The self-declared president has urged Venezuelans to protest against a growing government crackdown on opposition figures. The EU has warned the Maduro regime against “silencing” the opposition-held National Assembly.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Thursday called for nationwide rallies to protest the arrest of Edgar Zambrano, an opposition figure and vice president of the democratically elected National Assembly.
“This Saturday, we return to streets across the country to defend every Venezuelan represented in the National Assembly,” Guaido said, referring to the opposition-held legislature. “It is up to us to remain united and mobilized until we achieve freedom.”
Zambrano was arrested by the regime’s intelligence services on Wednesday. The SEBIN intelligence police towed Zambrano’s car with the 64-year-old lawmaker inside it after he refused to step out outside the headquarters of his Democratic Action Party.
Zambrano is among several opposition lawmakers who supported Guaido when he openly called for Venezuela’s military to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
Refuge in embassies
Three opposition lawmakers have sought refuge in foreign embassies in the capital Caracas. The lawmakers included Richard Blanco, who went to the Argentine Embassy, and Mariela Magallanes and Americo De Grazia, who took sanctuary in the Italian Embassy.
“I will not give the narco-dictatorship the pleasure of exhibiting me like a trophy and using me like a hostage,” De Grazia said in a tweet.”I’m still in the struggle. Venezuela is worth it. I’m grateful for Italy’s hospitality.”
The European Union condemned the arrest of Zambrano, saying it formed part of Maduro’s strategy to subjugate the opposition-held legislature.
“Zambrano’s arrest is a politically-motivated action aimed at silencing the National Assembly,” said an EU spokesperson. “The EU will continue to react, through its different policy instruments, to further erosion of democratic institutions, the rule of law and human rights.”
Since January, Venezuela has been caught in a power struggle. Guaido, who is president of the National Assembly, declared himself acting president that month in a direct challenge to Maduro’s rule.
The US immediately recognized Guaido as the legitimate president of the oil-rich, cash-strapped country. Shortly after, Germany and other Western countries also recognized him as Venezuela’s leader. But Maduro’s regime continues to enjoy support from Russia, China and Turkey, among others.
ls/sms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)