Trump Joins World Leaders Condemning Venezuela’s Maduro for Political Prisoner Raids

Nicolas Maduro
AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

The White House joined a number of other countries in condemning Sunday’s sham election in Venezuela and calling for the immediate release of two of the country’s imprisoned opposition leaders.

On Tuesday morning, Venezuelan secret Police (Sebin) stormed the homes of and arrested opposition leader Leopoldo López and elected mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma over alleged violations of their house arrest provisions. Both were granted house arrest on medical grounds. López is serving a 14-year prison sentence for organizing peaceful protests, while Ledezma was physically dragged out of his office in 2015 and has yet to be convicted of a crime.

A statement from the White House read:

The United States condemns the actions of the Maduro dictatorship.  Mr. Lopez and Mr. Ledezma are political prisoners being held illegally by the regime.  The United States holds Maduro—who publicly announced just hours earlier that he would move against his political opposition—personally responsible for the health and safety of Mr. Lopez, Mr. Ledezma, and any others seized. We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

The statement from the White House comes a day after the U.S. Treasury Department placed personal sanctions on Maduro in response to Sunday’s election, which include the freezing of assets, travel restrictions, and a ban on Americans doing business with Maduro.

Administration officials are also considering further sanctions on the regime as a whole and are likely to target Venezuela’s oil industry, which represents 95 percent of the country’s total exports.
Sunday’s election, which had an estimated abstention rate of 85 percent, was hailed as a victory by Maduro, who described the poll as “the biggest vote the Bolivarian revolution has ever had in all 18-year electoral history” and claimed the result would bring “reconciliation and peace” to the crisis-stricken country.

The election allowed voters only socialist candidate choices for representatives to serve in a parallel legislature referred to as a “constituent assembly,” which will usurp the power of lawmakers and replace them with candidates picked by the regime, tasked with rewriting the country’s constitution.

Countries across Latin America, including Argentina, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico, as well as the United States, Canada, and the European Union, have said they will not recognize the result.

The day was also marred by violence as 16 people, including a candidate and two teenagers, were killed amidst escalating tensions, while police arrested 100 people.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson accused Maduro of “acting like a dictator of an evil regime” and called for the release of political prisoners:

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said he was “deeply concerned” about the arrest. “I urge the authorities not to make an already extremely volatile situation even worse through the use of excessive force, including through violent house raids by security forces that have occurred in various parts of the country,” he said.

Venezuela is a member of the UN Human Rights Committee.

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