The Latest: State Department denounces Venezuela jailings
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Latest on the political situation in Venezuela (all times local):
The U.S. State Department says it’s “deeply concerned with the Venezuelan government’s decision to re-arrest opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma.”
It says the midnight detentions are further evidence that President Nicolas Maduro “is an authoritarian ruler who is not willing to respect fundamental human rights.”
Venezuela’s Supreme Court says the two were detained early Tuesday because they violated terms of their house arrest. Both had been held for allegedly stirring up violence in earlier protests.
Washington on Monday added Maduro to a steadily growing list of high-ranking Venezuelan officials targeted by financial sanctions. So far, the Trump administration has not delivered on threats to sanction Venezuela’s oil industry, which could undermine Maduro’s government but raise U.S. gas prices and deepen Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.
The moves follow Sunday’s election of a pro-government assembly with almost absolute power to reshape the country’s political system.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court says two leading opposition figures have been jailed because they violated the terms of their house arrest.
The nation’s highest court says Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were removed from their homes early Tuesday after “official intelligence sources” determined there was a “escape plan” involving both men.
The court added that Lopez isn’t permitted to engage in any sort of political activism and former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma is prohibited from speaking to media outlets.
Lopez was detained three years ago after protests against Maduro’s government and sentenced to more than a decade in prison. He was released last month to serve out his term on house arrest.
The president of Venezuela’s opposition-dominated legislature says the allegations are “ridiculous” and the jailings “absolutely arbitrary.”
An attorney says that Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has been returned to the military prison from which he had been recently released.
Lopez’s attorney Juan Carlos Gutierrez tells the Exitos radio station that the 46-year-old Lopez was pulled from his home and was taken to the Ramo Verde prison at about 3 a.m.
He says the government’s decision to return Lopez to prison is “completely arbitrary” and says Lopez had obeyed the conditions imposed on his house arrest.
Lopez had been released from Ramo Verde on July 8 after serving three years of a 13-year sentence for inciting violence at opposition rallies. Many human rights groups considered him a political prisoner.
It’s not clear if former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma also was taken to prison. Allies posted video online of him being taken from his home by security agents.
Allies of two Venezuelan opposition leaders say Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma have been taken by authorities from the homes where they were under house arrest.
Video posted on the Twitter account of Lopez’s wife early Tuesday shows a man being taken away from a Caracas home by state security agents. Wife Lilian Tintori says in a tweet that “they’ve just taken Leopoldo from the house. We don’t know where he is.”
Lopez was detained three years after protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government and sentenced to more than a decade in prison on charges that include inciting protesters to violence. He was released last month to serve the rest of his term under house arrest. Ledezma, a former Caracas mayor, was also detained in 2015 and has been under house arrest.
President Nicolas Maduro brushed off new U.S. sanctions on him and condemnation at home and abroad of the newly chosen constitutional assembly, saying the vote has given him a popular mandate to radically overhaul Venezuela’s political system.
Maduro said Monday evening he had no intention of deviating from his plans to rewrite the constitution and go after a string of enemies, from independent Venezuelan news channels to gunmen he claimed were sent by neighboring Colombia to disrupt the vote as part of an international conspiracy led by the man he calls “Emperor Donald Trump.”
“They don’t intimidate me. The threats and sanctions of the empire don’t intimidate me for a moment,” Maduro said on national television. “I don’t listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever … Bring on more sanctions, Donald Trump.”