Diosado Cabello, once the speaker of Venezuela's parliament and deputy leader of President Nicolas Maduro's ruling party, said Yon Goicoechea -- an activist pictured here during a rally who won an award for organizing protests against late former President Hugo Chavez -- was "trained by the U.S. empire" and sent to Venezuela "to seek blood" following the activist's arrest. Photo courtesy of Yon Goicoechea/Twitter
CARACAS, Venezuela, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The Venezuelan government has arrested an opposition activist who President Nicolas Maduro's administration said was "trained by the U.S. empire" and sent to "seek blood."
Maduro's ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, on Monday said Yon Goicoechea, a former student activist who helped organize opposition protests against late former President Hugo Chavez, was arrested and charged with possession of detonation cords used for explosives.
Goicoechea returned to Venezuela in July after completing graduate studies in the United States and Spain. Since his return, Goicoechea entered into the Popular Will hard-line opposition party.
Goicoechea was awarded Cato Institute's Milton Friedman Prize of $500,000 for his part in organizing the 2007 protests against Chavez that defeated his bid to expand his constitutional powers. His arrest precedes a nationwide opposition protest scheduled for Thursday.
"That man was trained by the U.S. empire for years," PSUV deputy leader Diosado Cabello, once the speaker of Venezuela's parliament, said at a rally. "It looks like his money ran out and he wants to come here to seek blood. They gave him the order there in the United States."
Goicoechea's wife, Rosaura, said Tuesday morning that she does not know where her husband is.
"Yon has not been able to speak with his lawyers. We do not know the reasons for his arrest. We fear for his physical integrity," she said in a statement. "Both myself and our two children want to see Yon released. He is innocent and should be released immediately."