(CARACAS, Venezuela) — Masked security forces detained a key aide to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido in a raid on his home early Thursday, arriving in a convoy of vehicles and breaking down his door in a show of force that escalated tensions with the United States.

Lawyer Roberto Marrero was taken away by intelligence agents in an overnight operation that was promptly condemned by Guaido as well as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called for the immediate release of the opposition figure.

“We will hold accountable those involved,” Pompeo tweeted.

The U.S. has imposed oil sanctions on Venezuela as well as individuals linked to President Nicolas Maduro in an attempt to force him from power. President Donald Trump has said tougher sanctions could occur and that “all options are on the table,” a remark that Maduro and his ally, Russia, have interpreted as a possible prelude to military intervention.

The Venezuelan government had no immediate comment on Marrero’s detention, which represented a sharp increase in police pressure on the opposition after a period of relative calm. Guaido had even said that the government was ignoring him in an attempt to sap the energy of the opposition, though Maduro has often described his adversary as a “puppet” and a “clown.”

Marrero reported the raid in a telephone call whose recording circulated on social media soon after the operation occurred. As he described how a large group of intelligence officials was entering his home, heavy thuds could be heard in the background.

The neighboring home of opposition lawmaker Sergio Vergara was also searched. Vergara said he was woken up by heavy banging at his door and that agents pointed weapons at him.

The security forces broke through a metal screen door and a wooden door to get into Marrero’s house, and left drawers open during their search, said Carlos Berrizbeitia, another opposition lawmaker who later visited the residence. Dozens of security forces were involved.

Vergara and Marrero both accompanied Guaido on a recent Latin American tour to build international support for his efforts to oust Maduro. Marrero heads the office of Guaido, who is leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly.

“We don’t know where he is. He should be freed immediately,” Guaido tweeted.

The opposition leader, who had defied a travel ban to leave the country, returned to Venezuela on March 4. The United States had warned the Venezuelan government against taking action against Guaido, who has staged frequent demonstrations in an attempt to remove Maduro.

Venezuelan prosecutors say Guaido is under investigation for alleged links to violence as well as the nation’s worst power outages. Maduro alleges the blackouts were caused by U.S.-directed sabotage, though U.S. officials and the Venezuelan opposition say state mismanagement and corruption caused the infrastructure collapse.

The U.S. and about 50 other countries support Guaido’s contention that he is the rightful leader of Venezuela and that Maduro’s re-election last year was illegitimate. Maduro says Guaido is a collaborator in a U.S. plot to overthrow his government.


Full Article: U.S. Calls for Release of Opposition Leader’s Aide After Detention by Government Forces“>U.S. Calls for Release of Opposition Leader’s Aide After Detention by Government Forces
Source: U.S. Calls for Release of Opposition Leader’s Aide After Detention by Government Forces“>Time News

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