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Venezuelan opposition leaders dragged from their homes in early morning raids

02:03 EDT 1 Aug 2017 | Yahoo News

Venezuelan opposition leaders dragged from their homes in early morning raidsVenezuelan opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were taken from their homes by intelligence agents in the early hours of Tuesday morning, in the wake of the controversial assembly vote that Nicolas Maduro said would open “a new phase of combat” in the country’s revolution. Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez  and Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma Credit: AFP Videos distributed by the leaders’ families showed them being dragged out of their houses and bundled into cars belonging to the notorious intelligence unit Sebin. The opposition denounced the detentions as “kidnappings”, and said the whereabouts of the two men was currently unknown. “Maduro is responsible if anything happens to him,” the wife of Mr Lopez, Lilian Tintori, said, adding that the government would not make her husband “bow down”. A still image taken from a social media video is said to show the moment in which opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is led into a vehicle marked with "Sebin", Venezuela's intelligence agency, in Caracas Credit: REUTERS The detention of the pair - who were both under house arrest after being released from prison - appears to herald the beginning of the crackdown on opposition “terrorists” that Mr Maduro had vowed would follow the constituent assembly vote. The two leaders had both previously been imprisoned in Ramo Verde over their role in instigating anti-government protests. Mr Lopez spent three and a half years in the jail before a judge ordered his transfer to house arrest in July; Mr Ledezma had been serving his sentence at home since 2015.  The re-imprisonment of the pair appears to herald the beginning of the crackdown on opposition “terrorists” that Mr Maduro had vowed would follow the constituent assembly vote. Elias Jaua, head of the Presidential Commission for the Constituent Assembly, said the men had been sent back to prison for violating the conditions of their house arrest, which restricted political declarations and messages. "Above all if those messages call for disregard for the institutions, for disregard for the results," he told state television. Supporters of arrested Caracas metropolitan mayor Antonio Ledezma hold up a cutout of his face during a gathering in his support in Caracas, Venezuela Credit:  REUTERS The assembly is tasked with rewriting the constitution, a move the Leftist leader insists is necessary to bring stability to Venezuela amid months of deadly protests. But critics say it is an illegal power grab aimed at circumventing the opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN), and is the beginning of a Cuban-style congress in the oil-rich nation. The vote earned Mr Maduro a place on the US Treasury sanctions list alongside Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Syria’s Bashar Assad and Kim Jong-un of North Korea. "Yesterday's illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people," said Steve Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary, late on Monday. Luisa Ortega Diaz, the Venezuelan attorney general, said that it was an expression of Mr Maduro’s “dictatorial ambition”. Explosions and clashes in Venezuela 00:57 Despite widespread reports of empty polling stations, Mr Maduro hailed Sunday’s election as a “vote for the revolution”, claiming a turnout of over 8 million - a figure the opposition puts closer to 2.5 million. He shrugged off the US sanctions on Monday night, dismissing Donald Trump as an desperate “emperor". "Sanctions from the empire don't scare me," he insisted. The constituent assembly is to convene on Wednesday and Mr Maduro has warned that its first task will be to jail opposition “terrorists”. Anti-government protesters stand near a barricade as they refuse the new Constituent Assembly Election on July 24, 2017 in Caracas, Venezuela Credit: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images He has also announced a ban on protests - which the opposition has vowed to defy - raising fears of further violence after more than 100 deaths in four months of protest, up to 16 on Sunday alone. But faced with hyperinflation and devastating shortages of food and medicine, many Venezuelans say they will not be deterred from taking to the streets. At a gathering in eastern Caracas, José Gregorio Hernández, a 47-year-old therapist, told The Telegraph he was not afraid. "We are already dying of hunger and insecurity. Getting a bullet shouldn’t be much worse.” Profile | Nicolas Maduro


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