Arrests of Lopez, Ledezma concern US, EU
Venezuela's intelligence service agents arrested two prominent opposition leaders early Tuesday, two days after a controversial vote that could lead to massive changes in that country’s government.
Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, each under house arrest, were taken from their homes in Caracas at dawn.
The arrests shows President Nicolas Maduro’s will to reinforce his power against dissent after the vote that was widely denounced as a fraud.
"They have just taken Leopoldo from the house. We don’t know where he is or where they lead him," Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, wrote on Twitter.
Ledezma’s three children also chose Twitter to denounce the arrests.
The two leaders have been for years highly critical of Maduro’s administration and were recently released from jail and assigned to house arrest.
The Supreme Court said Tuesday the men were sent back to prison because they violated the terms of their release by making political statements.
The opposition leaders used social media to urge Venezuelans to boycott the vote last week that authorized the creation of the Constituent Assembly and hand authority to Maduro to rewrite the Constitution and dissolve institutions such as the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
The White House strongly condemned the arrests, calling = Lopez and Ledezma "political prisoners held unjustly by the Maduro regime”.
“The U.S. condemns the actions of the Maduro dictatorship, and we hold Maduro personally responsible for the health and safety of both men and any others seized by his dictatorship,” spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.
The U.S. on Monday imposed economic sanctions on Maduro and characterized the Constituent Assembly vote held Sunday as a "rupture in Venezuela’s constitutional and democratic order”.
The European Union also voiced concerns after the arrests.
"We heard the news and we believe it's clearly a step in the wrong direction," Catherine Ray, a spokeswoman for EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, said at a news conference in Brussels.