Venezuela jailed two vocal critics of its president, Nicolas Maduro, on Tuesday, pulling the pair from their homes in overnight raids.
The show of force comes a day after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Maduro, calling him a “dictator” for what many see as a sham election Sunday.
The two men, Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, are accused by the Maduro-allied Supreme Court of violating the terms of their house arrest by plotting to flee and speaking to the media.
Both men’s allies denied the charges and vowed to continue to try to push the ruling party from power.
U.S. slaps sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
Maduro said he plans to seat a special assembly this week to rewrite the country’s constitution and vowed revenge on his enemies — including the media and an international conspiracy led by “Emperor Donald Trump.”
Venezuela has been beset by four months of protests, leaving least 120 dead and nearly 2,000 wounded.
Around midnight, heavily-armed pro-Maduro forces led a pajama-clad Ledezma from his east Caracas home as a woman screamed for help.
“They’re taking Ledezma!” the woman can be heard crying on a cell phone video of the arrest. “It’s a dictatorship!”
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Lopez’s wife, who is pregnant, posted surveillance video of the 46-year-old being taken from their home and forced into a waiting car.
“They’ve just taken Leopoldo from the house,” his wife wrote on Twitter. “We don’t know where he is or where they’re taking him.”
The men were being held at the Ramo Verde military prison south of the capital.
The White House issued a statement on the arrests on Tuesday, saying they are “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,” the White House added.
With News Wire Services
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