Family members say Venezuela opposition leaders taken f…
firstname.lastname@example.org (Fox News Online)
Two opposition leaders in Venezuela were taken from their homes Tuesday, according to family members who say that President Nicolas Maduro was responsible.
Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were already under house arrest when they were taken, according to Reuters. Both had called for Venezuelans to join protests against Maduro for his creation of an all-powerful legislative body.
Lilian Tintori, Lopez’s wife, wrote on Twitter about her husband’s apparent abduction.
“12:27 in the morning: the moment when the dictatorship kidnaps Leopoldo at my house,” she wrote on the social media site.
She included a link to a video of what appears to be Lopez being led into a vehicle emblazoned with the word Sebin, Venezuela’s intelligence agency.
Lopez was granted house arrest in July following three years in prison for his role in anti-government street protests in 2014. Ledezma was placed on house arrest in 2015 after being imprisoned on charges of leading a coup against Maduro.
Maduro has remained steadfast in enacting his overhaul of the political system in Venezuela.
On Monday evening he said he had no intention of deviating from his plans to rewrite the constitution and go after a string of enemies, from independent Venezuelan news channels to gunmen he claimed were sent by neighboring Colombia to disrupt the vote as part of an international conspiracy led by the man he calls “Emperor Donald Trump.”
“They don’t intimidate me. The threats and sanctions of the empire don’t intimidate me for a moment,” Maduro said on national television. “I don’t listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever … Bring on more sanctions, Donald Trump.”
A few hours earlier, Washington added Maduro to a steadily growing list of high-ranking Venezuelan officials targeted by financial sanctions, escalating a tactic that has so far failed to alter his socialist government’s behavior.
The sanctions came after electoral authorities said more than 8 million people voted Sunday to create a constitutional assembly endowing Maduro’s ruling party with virtually unlimited powers — a turnout doubted by independent analysts while the election was labeled illegitimate by leaders across the Americans and Europe.
Venezuela’s National Electoral Council said turnout in Sunday’s vote was 41.53 percent, or 8,089,320 people. The result would mean the ruling party won more support than it had in any national election since 2013, despite a cratering economy, spiraling inflation, shortages of medicine and malnutrition. Opinion polls had said some 85 percent of Venezuelans disapproved of the constitutional assembly and similar numbers disapproved of Maduro’s overall performance.
Maduro has said the new assembly will begin to govern within a week. Among other measures, he said he would use the assembly’s powers to bar opposition candidates from running in gubernatorial elections in December unless they sit with his party to negotiate an end to hostilities that have generated four months of protests that have killed at least 120 and wounded nearly 2,000.
Along with the U.S., the European Union and nations including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Spain and Britain criticized Sunday’s vote. Maduro said he had received congratulations from the governments of Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua, among others.
Maduro called the constitutional assembly in May after a month of protests against his government, which has overseen Venezuela’s descent into a devastating crisis during its four years in power. Due to plunging oil prices and widespread corruption and mismanagement, Venezuela’s inflation and homicide rates are among the world’s highest, and widespread shortages of food and medicine have citizens dying of preventable illnesses and rooting through trash to feed themselves.
The president of the opposition-led National Assembly, Julio Borges, told Venezuelan news channel Globovision on Monday that Maduro’s foes would continue protesting until they won free elections and a change of government.
He said Sunday’s vote gave Maduro “less legitimacy, less credibility, less popular support and less ability to govern.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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