Venezuelan Opposition Aide Seized, Drawing Rebuke From U.S.

Venezuelan Opposition Aide Seized, Drawing Rebuke From U.S.

"The worldwide community is closely watching Maduro's actions and will respond accordingly to any that threaten the safety of the opposition and Interim President Juan Guaidó", said Rep. "He should be freed immediately", Guaido tweeted. The U.S. had warned the Maduro government not to act against Guaido.

American countries on Thursday stepped up pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to release a senior adviser to opposition leader Juan Guaido amid concern that his arrest could herald a new crackdown on the opposition.

Guaido invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency in January, saying Maduro's re-election was not legitimate.

Guaido, who heads Venezuela's national assembly, invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency in January, saying Maduro's election a year ago was not legitimate. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Carrie Filipetti said that the sanctions were not meant to harm the Venezuelan people but instead an attempt to instigate a democratic transition in the crisis-stricken country.

The United States has repeatedly warned Maduro's government to not arrest Guaido or his close aides or it would face unspecified repercussions. The country is in an economic meltdown and millions of Venezuelans have fled.

Opposition lawmaker Sergio Vergara, whose nearby residence was also searched, also said Marrero was taken by intelligence agents in the overnight operation in Caracas.

Venezuela's Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

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A US State Department spokesman condemned the raids as a sign that "Maduro is betting on repression to hold on to power".

Guaido contends that he is the rightful leader of Venezuela and that Maduro's re-election a year ago was illegitimate because major opposition figures were not allowed to run.

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday that Venezuelan security forces, backed by pro-government militias, have quashed peaceful protests with an excessive use of force, killings and torture.

Venezuela is reeling from annual inflation topping 2 million percent, which has fueled malnutrition and preventable disease and spurred an exodus of more than 3 million citizens since 2015.

Maduro says his government is the victim of an "economic war" led by his political adversaries, and blames US financial and oil sector sanctions for the country's situation.

Guaido travelled around South America in February to drum up diplomatic support for his government, defying a travel ban imposed by the pro-government Supreme Court. The U.S. has sanctioned scores of top Venezuelan officials and has blocked U.S. banks from doing business with Venezuela, putting a financial strangle-hold on the cash-strapped country. Guaido had even said that the government was ignoring him in an attempt to sap the energy of the opposition.

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