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National Assembly vice president detained by Venezuelan police

By
Darryl Coote
Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) agents surround the vehicle carrying vice president of the Venezuelan National Assembly Edgar Zambrano, next to the headquarters of the political party Accion Democratica, in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/EPA-EFE
Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) agents surround the vehicle carrying vice president of the Venezuelan National Assembly Edgar Zambrano, next to the headquarters of the political party Accion Democratica, in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/EPA-EFE

May 9 (UPI) -- The vice president of Venezuela's National Assembly was detained by intelligence officers and transported to prison.

Edgar Zambrano live-tweeted his arrest Wednesday night, saying his vehicle was surrounded by Venezuelan intelligence agents at 6:35 p.m. and when he refused to leave his vehicle, security forces towed it to the infamous Helicoide prison in the capital Caracas.

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"We were surprised by the SEBIN," he said, referring to the intelligence service by its commonly used name. "When we refused to leave our vehicle, they used a crane to move us forcibly to the Helicoid. The democrats keep up the fight."

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Earlier Wednesday, Venezuela's Supreme Court stripped Zambrano of parliamentary immunity, allowing for his arrest, The New York Times reported.

National Assembly leader Juan Guaido, who named himself interim president Jan. 10 following Maduro's 2018 re-election being deemed illegitimate, threatened those responsible, saying they would be held accountable.

In a series of tweets, Guaido said the Maduro regime violated due process with its arrest of Zambrano, "displaying the authoritarianism to which they obey."

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He said Maduro was attacking the only elected power in the country while forgetting that the National Assembly has something he does not: "The support of the people."

"We will show in the streets that each kidnapped, each persecuted and each assassinated translate in new reasons to remove them from power as soon as possible," he said.

He said international allies have been notified of the situation.

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Guaido has the support of some 50 countries, including the United States who has pushed for Maduro to be ousted.

Zambrano was one of 10 opposition National Assembly officials charged with treason and rebellion by the Supreme Court for their role in the April 30 coup plot led by Guaido to dethrone Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Guaido has not been charged, the Washington Post reported

The plot turned into clashes as Guaido's call for the Venezuelan armed forces to break rank did not materialize.

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"We are not asking for a confrontation among brothers, it's the opposite. We just want them to be on the side of the people," he said following the failed coup.

The United States condemned Zambrano's arrest, demanding that he be "released immediately."

In a statement Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Zambrano's arrest "an unacceptable and illegal act" that reflects the repression of the Maduro regime.

"This is an attack on the independence of the nation's democratically elected legislative branch and is part of the Maduro regime's continued attempts to crush dissent and free debate in Venezuela," he said.

He said the arrest should be an announcement to the world that the dictatorship of Maduro "is not interested in constitutional solutions to the Venezuelan people's problems."

Earlier, the U.S. embassy in the South American country called his detention "illegal and inexcusable."

"Maduro and his cronies are directly responsible for Zambrano's safety," Kimberly Breier, assistant Secretary of State for western hemisphere affairs, said in a tweet. "If he is not released immediately, there will be consequences."

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