December 21, 2019 / 1:44 AM / 2 months ago

Venezuela detains lawmaker ahead of Guaido re-election vote - opposition

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan police detained a lawmaker from Juan Guaido’s opposition party on Friday, the party said, the latest in a wave of legal actions against lawmakers ahead of Guaido’s bid for re-election as National Assembly leader on Jan. 5.

FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognised as the country's rightful interim ruler, speaks during an extraordinary session of Venezuela's National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela December 17, 2019. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

The Popular Will party, known for its hardline approach to seeking to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro, said a special forces police unit known as FAES detained lawmaker Gilber Caro and one of his assistants in Caracas.

Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and it was not immediately clear what charges, if any, Caro faced.

Earlier this week, the government approved a trial of four opposition lawmakers accused of committing crimes including treason and conspiracy. Guaido says some 30 lawmakers remain detained, in exile, or in refuge at embassies in Caracas.

“There is no doubt that this new attack is part of the regime’s operation to dismantle parliament and torpedo President Juan Guaido’s election on Jan. 5,” Popular Will said in a statement on Twitter about Caro’s detention.

Guaido in January invoked Venezuela’s constitution to assume a rival presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate, and was swiftly backed by dozens of countries including the United States.

His allies say the government is intimidating lawmakers to try to prevent him from winning re-election next month to his post as congress chief, on which his claim to the interim president is based.

Maduro dismisses Guaido as a U.S.-backed puppet seeking to oust him in a coup.

Caro had previously been detained twice in recent years. He spent a year and a half in jail after being arrested in January 2017 after Maduro said he was planning to carry out “terrorist attacks.” The government released him in what it called a peace gesture.

He was arrested again in April of this year, days ahead of a failed attempt by Guaido to spur a military uprising. He was released in June ahead of a visit by U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Vivian Sequera; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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