July 18, 2024

Venezuela opposition leader Maria Corina Machado denounces arrest of aides

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Venezuela’s opposition leader, Maria Corina Machado, condemned the arrest of two of her staffers on Wednesday, accusing the government of targeting her party in anticipation of the upcoming presidential election in July. This condemnation follows an announcement by the country’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Tarek William Saab, regarding the arrest of two senior officials from Machado’s Vente Venezuela party for an alleged anti-government conspiracy.

Saab stated that Henry Alviarez and Dignora Hernandez were apprehended for purportedly planning to incite a military uprising by mobilizing labor and student unions, aiming to destabilize the nation. Additionally, seven other members of Machado’s team have been detained recently, with warrants issued for several others. Notably, there were no mentions of measures against Machado herself.

Addressing the press in Caracas, Machado refuted the allegations made by the prosecutor, labeling them as false and denouncing the attempt to obstruct the electoral process. Despite being barred from the July election and prohibited from holding public office for 15 years, Machado continues her efforts to challenge President Nicolas Maduro’s bid for a third term.

The arrest warrants issued for Machado’s staffers were reportedly based on a confession by another aide, Emil Brandt Ulloa, who was arrested earlier in March. In a video confession, Brandt purportedly admitted to the conspiracy, alleging financial support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Vente Venezuela, in response, condemned the arrests of Alviarez and Hernandez, characterizing them as “kidnappings” and highlighting an escalation of repression by the regime. The party’s headquarters were closed, and a video circulating on social media depicted police forcibly detaining a woman, believed to be Hernandez, as she pleaded for help.

As Venezuela prepares for the July 28 polls amid economic collapse and accusations of repression during Maduro’s tenure, Machado remains steadfast in her pursuit of electoral participation. International actors, including the United States, Argentina, and Uruguay, have called for the immediate release of Machado’s aides, with diplomatic tensions rising over the situation. Machado’s determination to contest the election persists, despite uncertainties surrounding her ability to navigate state-imposed obstacles to her candidacy.

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