Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie condemned today the detention of Venezuelan opposition leaders Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, which took place shortly after midnight today.
— Jorge Faurie (@JorgeFaurie) August 1, 2017
“I repudiate the arbitrary detention of López and Ledezma, who were under house arrest. My solidarity with their families.”
The popular opposition leaders were taken from their homes – where they are both serving house arrest — almost at the same time by forces from the government’s intelligence service Sebin (Bolivarian Intelligence Service).
The country’s Supreme Justice Tribunal (TSJ) informed State media that they have been taken back to prison because they were allegedly planning to escape based on their public statements. The families of both men announced that they will hold President Nicolás Maduro accountable for their lives and well-being.
López’s wife, Lilian Tintori, tweeted a video of their house’s security camera, which shows how he’s put in an intelligence service car that then drives away.
12:27 de la madrugada: Momento en el que la dictadura secuestra a Leopoldo en mi casa. No lo van a doblegar! pic.twitter.com/0EdlQvEGXS
— Lilian Tintori (@liliantintori) August 1, 2017
Neither Tintori nor the children she has with López were in the house at the time, as they had traveled to the United States for an extracurricular field trip the children had. López’s lawyer, Juan Gutierrez, confirmed at 4 AM that the political leader had been taken to the Ramo Verde prison, where he was arrested since February 2014 until July 8, 2017, when he was granted house arrest.
Estamos en la cárcel militar de Ramo Verde, extraoficial @leopoldolopez está aquí. Insistimos en acceder a verle.
— Juan C. Gutiérrez (@juancgutierrezc) August 1, 2017
Ledezma, mayor of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas’ children, also confirmed that the Sebin had taken their father. Press reported this morning that he is also being held in Ramo Verde. El Hatillo City Mayor, David Smolansky, tweeted a video where Ledezma — still in his pajamas — can be seen being dragged outside the building where he lives, while the people witnessing the event announce he’s being taken and ask for help.
— David Smolansky (@dsmolansky) August 1, 2017
“Emergency. This is how the Sebin took Ledezma. Coward dictatorship.”
López, who founded and currently leads the Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) political party, was imprisoned in February 2014 after being found guilty of instigating violence in protests against Maduro that took place during that year. In those protests, 43 people died as a result of the clashes between the two camps.
As mentioned, he was granted house arrest on July 8. Although the Maduro regime argued that he needed it for health reasons, the move was perceived as an attempt to calm the incessant protests that have been taking place in Venezuela since April.
On his end 62-year-old Ledezma was arrested in February 2015, accused of conspiracy and association to commit crimes. Three months later he got house arrest, also for health reasons, after getting a hernia removed.
These detentions come less than two full days after the government held elections to choose a Constitutional Assembly tasked with reforming the Venezuelan Constitution that late President Hugo Chávez promoted in 1999. The opposition considers that the Assembly is illegitimate and a desperate move by Maduro to cling to power.
- Read more: Crisis in Venezuela: Argentina Among Countries Deeming Constitutional Assembly Illegitimate
The 545 members of the Assembly are set to meet in the coming days — according to the law it should be on August 3rd, but government representatives said it could be earlier — to begin drafting a new Constitution that would replace the one promoted by late President Hugo Chávez in 1999. The Assembly will be able to reform the country’s institutions at will and session for a period of time set by its own members.
The body, which will wield more power than the parliament and even the president himself, will also be able to postpone this year’s regional and municipal elections and next year’s presidential elections. Opposition leaders assure this is one of the Assembly’s main goals, as it allows Maduro to stay in an office they claim he would lose should the elections be held.
The Assembly is set to session permanently in the oval room of the legislative palace, right across from the National Assembly (the parliament), where the opposition holds a majority. Since the opposition considers the Assembly to be less than legitimate, the palace is likely to become a legal – and probably verbal – battlefield. In fact, head of the National Assembly Julio Borges anticipated that the body he leads will not leave the palace to avoid clashing with the other Assembly.