Guaido’s deputy ‘towed in his car’ by security agents to notorious prison amid Venezuela crackdown

First arrest of a lawmaker following the failed uprising to oust country’s president

Chiara Giordano
Thursday 09 May 2019 16:28
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View of Venezuelan National Assembly vice president Edgar Zambrano being towed away in his car after his arrest on 8 May 2019.
View of Venezuelan National Assembly vice president Edgar Zambrano being towed away in his car after his arrest on 8 May 2019.

Venezuela’s deputy opposition leader has been towed to prison in his car in the first arrest since a failed uprising last week.

Edgar Zambrano, vice-president of the national assembly, refused to leave the vehicle when approached by agents from Venezuela’s Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin) on Wednesday.

As a result, the car was dragged away to the notorious El Helicoide prison in Caracas with the senior opposition figure still inside.

It was the first arrest of a lawmaker since opposition leader Juan Guaido tried and failed to spark a military uprising to bring down president Nicolas Maduro‘s government last week.

Mr Zambrano tweeted at about 6.40pm local time: “We were surprised by the Sebin, and after refusing to let us leave our vehicle, they used a tow truck to forcibly transfer us directly to the [Sebin headquarters] Helicoide.”

Opposition leader Mr Guaido called his deputy’s arrest “absurd” and claimed on Twitter that the “regime has kidnapped the first vice president”.

The US government’s Venezuelan embassy meanwhile said his “arbitrary detention” was “illegal and inexcusable” – and warned there would be “consequences”.

Juan Guaido (right) with Edgar Zambrano (Reuters)

Venezuela’s pro-Maduro constituent assembly agreed on Tuesday to strip Mr Zambrano and six other lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity to allow their future prosecution.

Diosdado Cabello, head of the constituent assembly, said in comments broadcast on state television: “One of the principal conspirators of the coup has just been arrested.

“They will have to pay before the courts for the failed coup that they attempted.”

Mr Guaido declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela in January, backed by the US and 50 other nations, arguing that Mr Maduro’s re-election last year was fraudulent.

Mr Maduro has overseen the collapse of Venezuela’s economy, which has shrunk by half over the past five years, forcing more than three million Venezuelans to emigrate.

With additional reporting by Reuters

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