Guaido Calls for Fresh Protests After His Deputy's Arrest

Guaido Calls for Fresh Protests After His Deputy's Arrest

National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano was leaving his Democratic Action party's headquarters when he was surprised by a commando unit from the feared SEBIN intelligence agency who surrounded his auto.

Separately, the Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal of Justice indicted three more lawmakers for allegedly backing Guaido's uprising, which set off two days of clashes between security forces and protesters.

The Supreme Court had earlier accused Zambrano and the other lawmakers of conspiracy, rebellion and treason.

During a televised speech on Friday, Maduro unleashed an attack on General Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, former director general of Venezuela's National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), who defected from Maduro's side in the wake of the failed military coup on April, 30. He was towed away in his own auto after refusing to get out, and is believed to have been transported to the notorious El Helicoide prison.

This brings to 10 the number of opposition lawmakers indicted for supporting Guaido, following a court announcement on Tuesday that seven others will be prosecuted.

Opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez entered the home of the Spanish ambassador last week, after he joined Guaido in the failed attempt to get the military to topple Maduro.

Tensions escalated when Guaido, who heads Venezuela's National Assembly, declared himself acting president on January 23, a move which was supported by the US and many European and Latin American countries.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro created the Constituent Assembly in 2017 in a bid to usurp power from the National Assembly. "If he is not immediately freed, there will be consequences", the embassy tweeted.

It was not yet clear if Zambrano was already at the Helicoide.

The decision to strip legislators of their immunity and to arrest Zambrano was condemned as "unconstitutional" in a statement on Thursday by the Lima Group, a regional bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Canada.

US President Donald Trump - whose government was among the first to back Juan Guaido - said he was "discussing the awful abuses by Maduro".

Trump did not mention Zambrano, but said that the U.S. would stand with the people of Venezuela "for however long it takes".

The judicial measure against Zambrano was dictated after he was apprehended once his parliamentary immunity had been raided by the National Constituent Assembly, and by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic, for being implicated in the attempted coup d'état.

"The European Union calls for Edgar Zambrano's immediate release and holds the relevant authorities responsible for his safety and integrity".

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