Venezuelan Opposition Leader’s Chief of Staff Kidnapped by Maduro Regime

Members of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Intelligence Service arrive to the Junquito highway during an operation to capture Oscar Perez, according to officials, in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Venezuelan special forces exchanged gunfire Monday with the rebellious police officer who has been on the run since leading a high-profile …
AP Photo/Fernando Llano

The Chief of Staff to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó was kidnapped by intelligence agents during a pre-dawn raid, an indication that the Maduro regime may be preparing to step up their crackdown on leading opposition activists.

In a message posted Thursday morning, Guaidó revealed members of the regime’s intelligence agency SEBIN raided the houses Chief of Staff Roberto Marrero and congressman Sergio Vergara, who is a member of Guaido’s Popular Will party, but only took Marrero away.

“They [the regime] have kidnapped my chief of staff, Robert Marrero,” he wrote on Twitter. “We don’t know where he’s been taken. He needs to be released immediately.”

According to Vergara, Marrero claimed that SEBIN had planted two guns and a grenade in the run-up to the arrest, so they could charge him with holding illegal firearms.

Responding to the arrest, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to hold those responsible “accountable” for the arrest but did not provide further details.

“The United States condemns raids by Maduro’s security services and detention of Roberto Marrero, Chief of Staff to Interim President [Juan Guaidó],” he wrote. “We call for his immediate release. We will hold accountable those involved.”

The arrest now raises concerns about the safety of Guaidó himself, who was appointed as Head of the Venezuelan National Assembly in January and is now recognized by most Western democracies as the country’s legitimate president

Since his appointment, Guaidó has attempted to energize the country’s disunited opposition, encouraging the country’s widespread opposition to engage in acts of civil disobedience, which include supporting efforts to deliver U.S. humanitarian aid from Colombia into and around the country.

Last month, the U.S. warned that it would be a “terrible mistake” to arrest him, as the Trump administration continues to impose economic sanctions on the regime’s financial resources.

“We hold former President Maduro and those surrounding him fully responsible for the safety and welfare of interim president Juan Guaidó and his family,” said State Department spokesman Robert Palladino last week. “It would be a terrible mistake for the illegitimate Maduro regime to arrest Juan Guaidó.”

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