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Latin America

Top Venezuelan opposition leaders seized by government in middle of the night

Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma were taken from their homes around midnight by security forces
1 Ago 2017 – 8:39 AM EDT

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Two of Venezuela's leading opposition figures were taken from their homes in the middle of the night by state security agents on Tuesday, in President Nicolas Maduro's first moves against his enemies since a widely denounced vote giving his government nearly unlimited powers.

The wife of opposition leader Leopoldo López posted what appeared to be video of him being taken from their home after midnight.

"They've just taken Leopoldo from the house," Lilian Tintori wrote on Twitter. "We don't know where he is or where they're taking him."

Allies of former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma posted video online of a man who appeared to be the opposition leader being taken by state security as a woman screams for help for neighbors.

"They're taking Ledezma!" she cries. "It's a dictatorship!"


López was detained three years ago after protests against 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.

Both have recently posted videos online denouncing Maduro's decision to hold a vote for a constitutional assembly with the power to 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."

A few hours earlier, Washington added Maduro to a steadily growing list of high-ranking Venezuelan officials targeted by financial sanctions, escalating a tactic that has so far failed to alter his socialist government's behavior. For now, 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 the humanitarian crisis here.


The sanctions came after electoral authorities said more than 8 million people voted Sunday to create the constitutional assembly - a turnout doubted by independent analysts while the election was labeled illegitimate by leaders across the Americans and Europe.

Maduro has said the new assembly will begin to govern within a week. Among other measures, he said he would use the assembly's powers to bar opposition candidates from running in gubernatorial elections in December unless they sit with his party to negotiate an end to hostilities that have generated four months of protests that have killed at least 120 and wounded nearly 2,000.

Along with the U.S., the European Union and nations including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Spain and Britain criticized Sunday's vote. Maduro said he had received congratulations from the governments of Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua, among others.

In photos: New crop of Venezuelan officials slapped with U.S. sanctions before constituent assembly elections

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