Venezuela Opposition Leader Denounces Arrest Of Aides

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Venezuela’s opposition leader, Maria Corina Machado condemned on Wednesday, the arrest of two of her staffers and accused the government of attacking her party for fear of losing July’s presidential election.




Her comments came after the country’s top prosecutor earlier in the day announced the arrest of two senior officials from Machado’s Vente Venezuela party over an alleged anti-government conspiracy.




Attorney General, Tarek William Saab said Henry Alviarez and Dignora Hernandez were plotting to “rally the masses using labor and student unions to incentivize a military wing” to lead an uprising and “generate destabilization in the country.”




Seven other Machado aides have been arrested in recent days, and warrants have been issued for several more.



The attorney general did not mention any measures against Machado herself.



“Today, as you all know, arrest warrants were issued for nine Venezuelans, most of them members of our campaign team,” Machado said at a press conference in Caracas. “Two of the members of these teams were kidnapped and forcibly detained.”




“Everything, absolutely everything, said by the prosecutor” was false, she added.




“This is a shameful attempt to shut down the electoral process.”




Though she was disqualified from the July 28 election and banned from holding public office for 15 years, Machado has continued to try to challenge President Nicolas Maduro’s attempt to secure a third term.




Maduro’s regime knows “there is no way they can win an election,” she told reporters in the capital.




Attorney general Saab said the arrest warrants for Machado’s staffers stemmed from a confession by another of her aides, Emil Brandt Ulloa, who was arrested on March 9.




In a video, Bradnt allegedly admits to the conspiracy, and claims it was financed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).




“We have revealed a series of conspiracies, threats and actions that have as a common denominator the intention of sowing violence and chaos in the country and threatening the life of the president” as well as “high civil and military authorities,” said Saab.




Vente Venezuela condemned what it described as the “kidnapping” of Alviarez and Hernandez, and said the “repression of the regime” was intensifying.




The party’s headquarters were shuttered Wednesday.




In a video circulating on social media, police officers were seen forcing a woman, widely identified as Hernandez, into a van as she shouted: “Help, please!”




“Vente Venezuela is not a terrorist organization … Our route is electoral, we want a peaceful transition,” Orlando Moreno, coordinator of the party’s human rights committee, told AFP.


– ‘Power at any cost’ –


Venezuela goes to the polls on July 28 with Maduro seeking re-election after 11 years in office marked by sanctions, economic collapse and accusations of widespread repression.




In October, Machado overwhelmingly won an opposition primary, capturing 92 percent of the votes.



But the Supreme Court in January upheld the administrative order barring her and her potential stand-in, Henrique Capriles, from holding public office.




Machado, 56, has accused Maduro of violating an agreement signed in Barbados last year, in which his administration promised to hold a free and fair vote in 2024 with international observers present.



The deal led the United States to ease sanctions, allowing Chevron to resume limited crude extraction — a decision it is now reconsidering given Machado’s continued exclusion from the ballot.




On Thursday, Brian Nichols, the top US diplomat for Latin America, called for “the immediate release” of Machado’s staff.



“Maduro’s escalating attacks on civil society and political actors are totally inconsistent with Barbados Accord commitments but will not stifle the democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people,” he wrote in a statement on social media platform X.



Argentina and Uruguay also demanded the release of the opposition aides, while Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yvan Gil accused the United States and Argentina of being “accomplices” to “fascists”.



Machado has so far refused to bow out of the presidential race, though it is unclear how she will overcome the state’s hurdles to her participation.



Official nominations for presidential candidates open on Thursday.




“Once again, those who seek to stay in power at any cost lash out against those who oppose them,” Capriles wrote on X.















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