The Maduro regime in Venezuela arrested President Juan Guaidó’s bodyguards this weekend on charges of selling stolen weapons to former soldiers allegedly planning a coup.
Guaidó has been the legal president of Venezuela since January, when dictator Nicolás Maduro’s term expired. Maduro has refused to give up the presidency, resides in the presidential palace and still controls the military. Without the armed forces behind him, Guaidó has largely failed to control the country.
In a statement on Sunday, the regime accused the two arrested members of Guaidó’s security team of “negotiating the sale of five AK-103 spearguns” to soldiers who planned on carrying out a rebellion against the socialist regime.
“Yesterday two mercenaries were captured because they were going to sell some rifles that were stolen on April 30 from the National Assembly,” said Diosdado Cabello, one of the Maduro regime’s most senior officials. “We did our intelligence work and when they went to deliver the rifles, we captured them; that’s with prosecutors, with witnesses, it was very well done. They continue to conspire and we will not give up and we will not stop promoting dialogue just because we have the advantage.”
Juan Guaidó confirmed the arrest on Twitter, revealing that authorities detained the two men while he was at a rally in Trujillo. He also expressed concerns they were being tortured.
“The cowardly regime kidnaps members of my team Erick Sánchez and Jason Parisi who were in Caracas guarding my family while I am in Trujillo,” he wrote. “The nature of the regime, its fear, divisions and contradictions are the greatest obstacles to a peaceful solution.”
“Erick and Jason are probably being tortured right now,” he continued. “The regime will try to increase the pressure, but they should know that we will not stop until freedom and respect for human rights in Venezuela is restored.”
Régimen cobarde secuestra a miembros de mi equipo Erick Sánchez y Jason Parisi que estaban en Caracas resguardando a mi familia mientras me encuentro en Trujillo. La naturaleza del régimen, su temor, divisiones y contradicciones son el mayor obstáculo para una solución pacífica.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) July 13, 2019
Since becoming the head of the National Assembly and being sworn in as the country’s president in January, the Maduro regime has sought to intimidate Guaidó by stripping his diplomatic immunity and threatening and arresting those around him.
In an interview with the Associated Press this month, the former head of Venezuelan Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), General Manuel Cristopher Figuera, revealed how Maduro would personally order the arrest of certain individuals, including Guaidó’s mother, without any evidence of a crime. After Figuera dissuaded him from arresting his mother on the grounds that she was suffering from cancer, he then turned his attention to his chief of staff, Robert Marrero.
“What do I do to put him in jail?” he recalled asking Maduro. “He told me: ‘That’s not my problem. Take him prisoner, arm him with weapons. See what you can do.’” Soon after, SEBIN agents arrested Marrero on charges of running an alleged “terrorist cell” and he has remained incarcerated ever since. In May, SEBIN also detained Guaidó’s deputy in the National Assembly, Edgar Zambrano, also on trumped-up charges of “treason, conspiracy, and civil rebellion.”
Guaidó has yet to be personally targeted, although there remain serious concerns for his safety. In March, White House National Security Advisor John Bolton warned that any arrest would be “met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community.”