Venezuela: Abducted Mayor Returned to House Arrest, Leopoldo López Remains Imprisoned

Venezuelan opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez (L) and Antonio Ledezma -- who were both under house arrest -- were taken back to jail, sparking international anger
AFP/File Leopoldo LOPEZ, EVARISTO SA

Venezuelan authorities returned opposition leader and rightful mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma to house arrest on Friday, just days after he was re-arrested following President Nicolas Maduro’s sham election.

“Several minutes ago, Antonio was unexpectedly returned by the Sebin (intelligence agency) to our home,” wrote Mitzy Capriles de Ledezma.”We thank the people of Venezuela and the international community for their concern and solidarity”:

Footage released of Ledezma’s arrest this week showed agents dragging the mayor away while a woman believed to his wife shouts, “They are taking Ledezma away! Dictatorship!”

The release of Ledezma happened just hours before the convening of Maduro’s constituent assembly, consisting of 545 members, all socialists handpicked by the regime tasked with rewriting the country’s 1999 constitution. The plan will repeal the power of elected lawmakers and remove checks and balances against Maduro’s authority.

Ledezma has been detained for years without being convicted or tried for a crime, though he had been transferred to house arrest for medical reasons. That changed this weekend when, according to Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional, the socialist regime claimed Ledezma had “violated” his house arrest provisions with a plan to flee the country.

Ledezma had also published a video on social media calling for more unity within the opposition, a move the government considered a violation of a ban on any public statements surrounding the election.

“When the Venezuelan justice system allowed the house arrest condition, there were limitations and restrictions imposed regarding political declarations, message transmissions, above all if these messages called for contempt of institutions and [election] results,” Elías Jaua, a senior Maduro official, explained on state television.

Fellow opposition leader Leopoldo López, re-arrested on the same night as Ledezma after having previously been placed under house arrest, remains incarcerated.

López, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for organizing peaceful protests in 2014, was also accused of trying to flee the country as well as violating his house arrest provisions with “political proselytizing” by calling on Venezuelans to assemble against the vote.

“ALL the country out to the streets to block [roads] and [organize] a massive assembly in Caracas. … No to the FRAUD of the constituents!” Lopez wrote on Twitter in the run-up to the vote:

“Urgent: they just took Leopoldo from home. We do not know where he is or where they are taking him. Maduro is responsible if anything happens to him,” his wife Lilian Tintori later wrote on Twitter, accompanied by footage of the arrest:

Both arrests received condemnation from the White House, which described the men as “political prisoners being held illegally by the regime,” adding that the United States would hold Maduro “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 added.

The Trump administration previously placed personal sanctions on Maduro in response to Sunday’s election, including travel restrictions and the freezing of assets, while senior officials are also considering additional sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry, which represents 95 percent of the country’s total exports.

According to the company that has provided the Venezuela with its voting system since 2004, turnout figures in Venezuela’s constituent assembly election on Sunday were inflated by at least one million votes, after the country’s electoral council president, Tibisay Lucena, claimed the turnout was 41.53 percent, approximately 8.1 million people.

Nevertheless, Maduro hailed the election as a victory, describing the poll as “the biggest vote the Bolivarian revolution has ever had in all 18-year electoral history,” while arguing the result would bring “reconciliation and peace” to the crisis stricken country.

You can follow Ben Kew on Facebook, on Twitter at @ben_kew, or email him at bkew@breitbart.com

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