Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro has vowed to arrest “terrorists” undermining his leadership, raising fears that the regime could soon target opposition leader Juan Guaidó and other high-profile politicians.
Speaking at a “March Against Imperalism” rally in Caracas on Saturday, Maduro blasted the “diabolical pro-imperialist puppets” who he claimed were trying to remove him from power.
“In the coming days, we will certainly see more terrorists captured – whatever their names might be,” Maduro said. “There will be justice in Venezuela. We will not shy away from sending these crooks to jail – one by one – sooner rather than later … We have their names. We know their faces.”
Llegó la hora de un cambio profundo en los métodos de gobierno, y cuento con el apoyo del pueblo, en unión Cívico–Militar, para lograrlo. En las próximas horas designaré un nuevo gabinete que se irá a las calles a resolver los problemas, en permanente contacto con el pueblo. pic.twitter.com/zORKWtokBu
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 24, 2019
“The Bolivarian revolution will continue to lead the government and the people will continue to lead the motherland,” he continued. “There will be no empire, no puppets, no clowns and no parasites who can go against the will of the people of Venezuela.”
Maduro’s comments come days after the Chief of Staff to opposition leader Juan Guaidó, Robert Marrero, was kidnapped and detained by intelligence agents from his home on Friday morning. He has since been accused of running an anti-Maduro “terror network” that was plotting a series of political assassinations and attacks designed to remove him from power, although no formal evidence has been provided to verify that claim.
The regime’s information minister, Jorge Rodríguez, claimed on Saturday the head of that supposed network was former opposition leader, Leopoldo López, who is still serving out a sentence under house arrest for organizing mass protests against Maduro in 2014.
Sobre denuncia anterior informamos que fue capturado jefe paramilitar de los más buscados de Colombia:Wilfrido Torres Gómez, alias Neco. Es uno de los jefes de sicarios ingresados x la ultraderecha desde Colombia. Solicitado con código azul x Interpol x homicidio y sicariato pic.twitter.com/ZK6V2FWn1q
— Jorge Rodríguez (@jorgerpsuv) March 23, 2019
“Assassins and paramilitaries have been recruited using large amounts of money so that they can be sent to Colombia to receive training,” Maduro declared. “Marrero was involved in contracting people from Guatemala and Colombia to comply with the recruitment and training plan for assassins.”
However, any move against Guaidó himself is likely to provoke a strong reaction from the U.S., who recognize him as the country’s legitimate president with the backing of the majority of Western democracies.
Last month, Washington warned that it would be a “terrible mistake” to arrest Guaidó, with Donald Trump recently pledging to impose even tougher sanctions while also keeping “all options on the table” for removing Maduro from power.
“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. “It would be a terrible mistake for the illegitimate Maduro regime to arrest Juan Guaidó.”