Venezuelan Secret Police Arrest Opposition Mayor
Daniel Ceballos, the mayor of San Cristóbal, Táchira, was arrested late Wednesday night by Venezuelan secret intelligence agents as President Nicolás Maduro continues to crack down on members of the opposition party, Popular Will.
Ceballos, who runs the city known as the cradle of the anti-socialist movement protesting against Maduro, was allegedly arrested for not "complying with his obligations under the law and the constitution," according to Interior Minister Miguel Rodríguez. Ceballos, he continued, "facilitated and helped all the irrational violence in San Cristobal."
The government claims to have issued a criminal warrant against Ceballos for "fomenting civilian uprising" and executed it last night, though El Universal, the nation's largest newspaper, reports that Ceballos' attorneys, who were with him at the time of arrest, were not shown any such documentation. His deputies, using Ceballos' official Twitter account, confirmed the arrest and stated they did not know Ceballos' whereabouts.
The state of Táchira borders Colombia, and its capital, San Cristóbal, was once a prosperous college town. Under the Chavista regimes, however, San Cristóbal has become a hotbed of resistance, and peaceful student protesters organize against the government. The governor of Táchira, a Chavista partisan, publicly objected to the arrest of Popular Will party leader Leopoldo López and has dissented from Maduro's talking points, strengthening opposition in that state.
Surveillance footage captured the moment in which Venezuela's intelligence troops stormed the mayor's residence and made its way to YouTube:
Ceballos' arrest follows strong words yesterday from the government against another popular opposition leader, former legislator María Corina Machado, who some government officials now accuse of treason and murder for the deaths of protesters during civil disobedience marches. The head of the legislature, Diosdado Cabello, announced yesterday an official "investigation" into whether Machado should be held responsible for the death toll, which has now reached 30.
Ceballos and Machado are the latest in a string of opposition arrests that began with the arrest of Leopoldo López, the leader of the Popular Will party to which both Ceballos and Machado belong. López has been in jail for more than a month for organizing assemblies against the government, which Nicolás Maduro has claimed led directly to the deaths and injuries of students and has denied responsibility on the part of government officials. Earlier this week, Maduro dispatched the Venezuelan military to Altamira Square, the center of the opposition movement in the capital of Caracas, to attack and dispel the groups of protesters peacefully assembled there.
The opposition has responded to the recent crackdown by organizing a new series of protests nationwide. According to Infobae, opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski, who ran against Maduro in the country's latest presidential elections, announced a new wave of protests beginning today at 11 AM local time. Machado, meanwhile, is organizing a parallel protest calling for the liberation of Ceballos in his native Táchira.