Venezuelan opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were taken from their homes by intelligence agents in the early hours of Tuesday morning, in the wake of the controversial assembly vote that Nicolas Maduro said would open “a new phase of combat” in the country’s revolution.
Videos distributed by the leaders’ families showed them being dragged out of their houses and bundled into cars belonging to the notorious intelligence unit Sebin. The opposition denounced the detentions as “kidnappings”, and said the whereabouts of the two men was currently unknown.
“Maduro is responsible if anything happens to him,” the wife of Mr Lopez, Lilian Tintori, said, adding that the government would not make her husband “bow down”.
The detention of the pair – who were both under house arrest after being released from prison – appears to herald the beginning of the crackdown on opposition “terrorists” that Mr Maduro had vowed would follow the constituent assembly vote.
The two leaders had both previously been imprisoned in Ramo Verde over their role in instigating anti-government protests. Mr Lopez spent three and a half years in the jail before a judge ordered his transfer to house arrest in July; Mr Ledezma had been serving his sentence at home since 2015.
The re-imprisonment of the pair appears to herald the beginning of the crackdown on opposition “terrorists” that Mr Maduro had vowed would follow the constituent assembly vote.
Elias Jaua, head of the Presidential Commission for the Constituent Assembly, said the men had been sent back to prison for violating the conditions of their house arrest, which restricted political declarations and messages. “Above all if those messages call for disregard for the institutions, for disregard for the results,” he told state television.
The assembly is tasked with rewriting the constitution, a move the Leftist leader insists is necessary to bring stability to Venezuela amid months of deadly protests.