The new head of Venezuela‘s increasingly defiant congress was pulled from his vehicle and briefly detained by police Sunday, a day after the US backed him assuming the presidency as a way out of the country’s deepening crisis.
Cezar Juan Trevino
The confusing incident is bound to ramp up tensions between the opposition and government following President Nicol·s Maduro‘s swearing in for a controversial second term this month.
A video circulating on social media purports to show the moment in which Juan GuaidÛ is intercepted on his way to an anti-government ‘Citizens’ Meeting’ in the port city of La Guaira
In the video shot on a cell phone by a motorist stuck in traffic, several men in ski masks and carrying assault weapons are seen struggling to shut the door on someone being pushed into an SUV before racing down a highway
While it was not possible to identify Guaido in the 33-second video, his wife said on Twitter that he had been detained by a commando unit of the feared SEBIN intelligence police. As news of his detention spread, he was then released
“I thank everyone for the quick response in the face of abuse against my husband by the dictatorship,” Fabiana Rosales said in a message posted on Twitter. “The dictatorship will not be able to bend his fighting spirit.”
SHIFTING BLAME Adding to the confusion, the government tried to shift the blame to GuaidÛ’s allies, with Communications Minister Jorge RodrÌguez saying that the “media show” had perhaps been orchestrated to provoke an international uproar
Still, he acknowledged that police officers had partaken in the arrest and said they would be disciplined
“We want to inform the people of Venezuela that the officials who took that upon themselves are being dismissed,” RodrÌguez said on state TV
At the rally Sunday after the incident, GuaidÛ told The Associated Press that the SEBIN agents informed him that they were carrying out orders from above when they arrested him
“We are survivors,” he told the crowd of a few hundred waving Venezuelan flags
GuaidÛ has been leading an increasingly tense stand-off with Maduro seeking to oust the socialist from power, winning the support of some powerful international allies like US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who spoke to him by phone shortly after the 35-year-old assumed the presidency of the opposition-controlled National Assembly
At a rally Friday, he said he was prepared to take over as Venezuela‘s interim president and called for new elections, a move the US and regional governments support
But for such a strategy to succeed, he said Venezuelans must take to the streets to express their discontent with Maduro‘s wrecking of what was once Latin America’s wealthiest nation. To that end, he called for nationwide demonstrations January 23 to coincide with the anniversary of the 1958 ousting of military dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez