Nicolás Maduro’s socialist government in Venezuela is getting increasingly desperate, as nothing they have tried has abated the wave of protests that began with the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo López. After arresting two opposition party mayors this week, Maduro threatened all public officials with the same fate.
Late Wednesday night, Venezuela’s secret intelligence police arrested Daniel Ceballos, the mayor of San Cristóbal, known as the cradle of the Venezuelan opposition movement and a major pro-capitalist stronghold near the border with Colombia. The mayor, who had denounced the Maduro administration and blamed Chavista paramilitary groups for killing students in his city–a major college enclave–is being accused of inciting violence and rebellion.
In the city of San Diego, several miles outside of Caracas in the province of Carabobo, Maduro’s forces arrested Mayor Enzo Scarano for refusing to take down barricades that protesters had constructed to keep the paramilitary pro-Maduro groups out of the city. El Universal, the country’s biggest newspaper, reports that Scarano will spend ten months and fifteen days in prison for such disobedience.
Scarano tweeted his experience of the entire ordeal, even joking about how hungry he was while waiting for his court appearance on Wednesday:
Hasta esta hora no me han hecho pasar a la audiencia, lo que si me han hecho pasar es hambre!
— ENZO SCARANO (@ENZOSCARANO) March 19, 2014
President Maduro made it clear that Ceballos and Scarano would not be the last to wind up behind bars despite their prominence in the public eye. The Venezuelan government has also begun a process to arrest and censure deputy María Corina Machado for what the government calls “murder” but in actuality is the organization of protests against Maduro throughout the country. Machado is currently in Washington, D.C. to testify before the Organization of American States, urging intervention to prevent more deaths during protests.
Machado argued before representatives of various Latin American nations that now was the time to strike against Maduro, as “the students have torn the democratic mask off Maduro’s face” and exposed him to an international coalition of “artists, journalists, baseball players, intellectuals, ex-presidents across the world calling the Venezuelan regime what it is: a dictatorship.”
The opposition’s push back has not deterred Maduro. Instead, the president yesterday threatened all public officials that they could meet the same fates as Ceballos and Scarano. Speaking specifically of Scarano, he accused the mayor of being backed by “the economic power of the mafia, drug trafficking, and contraband,” “paramilitarism,” and Álvaro Uribe, who almost completely eradicated the Marxist terrorist guerrilla group FARC from the country and also hasn’t been president of Colombia for four years. He also accused Scarano of “supporting a coup,” “giving protesters Molotov cocktails,” and “kidnapp[ing] his neighbors,” though he gave no evidence to support these accusations.
More importantly, Maduro threatened that Scarano and Ceballos would not be the last to go to jail. “To all these mayors that make mistakes–the law will be there,” Maduro threatened. He added that “the Supreme Court will determine whether these mayors of the fascist far right should be removed and thrown to jail.” To the opposition, he noted that San Diego will now have elections to replace Scarano while he serves his ten month sentence, mocking them for alleging correctly that Maduro committed fraud to keep his office: “you wanted elections, right?”
Maduro also threatened the mayor of opposition bastion Chacao, Ramón Muchacho. “Get your act together, Ramón Muchacho–if you don’t, there might soon be new elections in your municipality,” the president taunted. Muchacho responded on Twitter, thanking supporters and promising an expanded reply to the accusations in the near future.
Ceballos, arrested on Wednesday, has yet to appear before the court, and his fate has thus remained undetermined.