Venezuelan lawmakers search refuge in embassies after crackdown on Guaido allies

CARACAS (Reuters) – Two Venezuelan lawmakers sought refuge at international embassies in Caracas on Thursday, as the federal government of President Nicolas Maduro cracked down on allies of opposition chief Juan Guaido who supported his tried rebellion final week.

FILE PHOTO: Lawmaker Richard Blanco offers a speech to opposition supporters throughout a rally in opposition to the Nationwide Constituent Meeting, exterior a college the place a polling heart might be established for a Constitutional Meeting election subsequent Sunday in Caracas, Venezuela, July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares/File Photograph

The ex-head of the state intelligence service, Manuel Cristopher, the highest Maduro authorities official to defect in the course of the rebellion, additionally spoke out for the primary time on Thursday, urging Venezuelans to “construct a brand new state” and fight corruption.

The strikes got here the day after authorities arrested Edgar Zambrano, the opposition-run Nationwide Meeting’s vice chairman.

Richard Blanco of the Courageous Peoples’ Alliance celebration entered Argentina’s embassy on Thursday, in response to an Argentine international ministry supply and a Reuters witness, whereas Americo De Grazia of the Radical Trigger celebration sought refuge at Italy’s embassy, in response to three sources near him.

Blanco, Zambrano and De Grazia had been amongst 10 lawmakers stripped of congressional immunity by the Supreme Courtroom this week, which mentioned the legislators must be investigated for crimes together with conspiracy, treason and rebel. Marianella Magallanes, one other lawmaker, took refuge within the Italian embassy on Wednesday.

The opposition don’t acknowledge the Supreme Courtroom’s selections since they are saying Maduro has stocked it together with his personal supporters. The U.S. authorities has threatened to impose sanctions on the entire courtroom’s members.

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Venezuela’s info ministry, Argentina’s embassy in Caracas and Italy’s embassy in Caracas didn’t reply to requests for remark.

“He (Blanco) is there as a visitor; we are able to affirm that,” an Argentine international ministry official mentioned, on situation of anonymity.

Guaido invoked the structure to imagine an interim presidency in January, arguing Maduro’s 2018 reelection was illegitimate. About 50 nations, together with the USA and far of Latin America, have acknowledged Guaido because the nation’s respectable chief.

Maduro’s authorities has to this point prevented arresting Guaido, which might seemingly provoke a robust worldwide backlash. However the latest measures counsel the ruling Socialist Occasion is in search of to isolate him by pursuing key political allies.

“We take it as a on condition that the regime goes to maintain escalating its repression,” Guaido mentioned at a information convention, referring to Zambrano’s arrest. He additionally known as for Venezuelans to take to the streets on Saturday for recent protests in opposition to Maduro.Cristopher, the ex-intelligence chief, was changed by Maduro on April 30 and his whereabouts stay unknown. The U.S. authorities lifted sanctions on Cristopher this week, in a bid to encourage different high officers to withdraw assist for Maduro.

“Sufficient with blaming the world for our nation’s disgraces, and to maintain demanding extra sacrifices from our individuals whereas some leaders make fortunes,” Cristopher mentioned in a video posted on Twitter by Venezuelan TV outlet NTN24.

TOWED AWAY AND ARRESTED

Zambrano was arrested on Wednesday by brokers from the SEBIN intelligence service, who used a tow truck to pull away his car with him inside. He tweeted that he was being taken to the SEBIN headquarters in Caracas. Authorities haven’t confirmed the place he was being detained.

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Soley Zambrano, his daughter, mentioned she final heard from her father round 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

“Minutes earlier than it occurred, he obtained in contact with me and mentioned, ‘My daughter, you understand who your father is: a democrat who won’t give in to something,” she advised reporters exterior the SEBIN headquarters on Thursday afternoon.

His arrest drew swift condemnation from the USA, which argues Maduro is a dictator who has undermined the rule of legislation.

“We are going to proceed to make use of the complete weight of the U.S. authorities to carry accountable those that subvert democracy and the Venezuelan constitutional order, and threaten the protection of the duly-elected Nationwide Meeting of Venezuela,” a senior White Home official mentioned on Thursday, on situation of anonymity.     

The choice to strip legislators of their immunity and to arrest Zambrano was condemned as ‘unconstitutional’ in an announcement on Thursday by the regional Lima Group bloc.

Different Guaido allies have already been jailed or fled to the embassies of sympathetic nations. Guaido’s chief of employees, Roberto Marrero, was arrested in March and stays in jail.

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Final week, Leopoldo Lopez – Guaido’s political mentor – moved into Spain’s diplomatic residence after escaping home arrest to look alongside Guaido throughout his name for the navy to stand up.     

The USA has slapped sanctions on state oil firm PDVSA and a number of other high figures in Maduro’s authorities in a bid to strain Maduro to step apart so Guaido can take workplace and name new elections.

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However Maduro retains management of the navy and state capabilities. He has branded Guaido a U.S.-backed puppet in search of to oust him in a coup. 

Reporting by Mayela Armas and Cassandra Garrison, Extra reporting by Johnny Carvajal and Shaylim Valderrama in Caracas and Roberta Rampton in WashingtonWriting by Luc Cohen Modifying by Daniel Flynn, Rosalba O’Brien and Cynthia Osterman

Our Requirements:The Thomson Reuters Belief Ideas.