After intelligence agents arrested him from his car on the Caracas highway, Venezuelan prosecutors announced charges of “terrorism” and “treason” against a prominent opposition politician.
In a statement on Monday, Attorney General Tarek Sabo stated that Freddie Guevara was detained by members of the Bolivar National Intelligence Agency (Sebin) because of “he is connected with extreme ties to the Colombian government. There is a connection between ism and paramilitary organizations”.
The statement said: “He will be charged with terrorist crimes, attacks on the constitutional order, conspiracy and treason.”
Guevara, a close ally of opposition leader Juan Guaido, posted on social media in his car after the secret police intercepted him on the Caracas highway.
The 35-year-old said in the live broadcast: “Greetings to my family, I am sorry that you are going through this pain, I hope it is short-lived.”
A spokesperson for Guaido’s office said that Che Guevara, who was pardoned on accusations of inciting violence in 2017, was taken to the Helicoide Prison of the Sabine Intelligence Agency in Caracas less than a year ago.
The Attorney General did not specify where he was held.
In addition, Guaidó also said that when he tried to leave the apartment to assist Guevara earlier on Monday, unidentified armed men threatened to arrest him.
The video circulating in his office showed that in the basement of the Guaido building, at least two men in bulletproof vests and balaclavas approached his car and pointed at him with assault rifles.
The video showed that one of the men opened the driver’s door, forcibly pushed the driver to the ground, and shouted “Get out!”
The Venezuelan Ministry of Information did not respond to a request for comment.
Meeting in Mexico
A person familiar with the matter told Reuters last week that these incidents occurred when the Venezuelan government and the opposition were preparing for negotiations in Mexico next month, and Norway mediation. The talks are aimed at resolving the deep political crisis in South American countries.
President Nicolas Maduro (Nicolas Maduro) confirmed the negotiation plan when he appeared on national television on Monday, but said the opposition should abandon violent strategies before the talks. Without naming Guevara or Guaido, he said he had evidence that some actors were planning a coup, and said that prosecutors acted on the evidence.
“I agree with Mexico and Norway’s table, but there must be conditions, and violence must be clearly renounced,” Maduro said.
The Venezuelan government previously linked Guevara and his political mentor Leopoldo Lopez, now exiled in Spain, to the violent clashes that took place near Caracas last week, which resulted in at least 26 deaths.
“They want to disguise themselves as Democrats,” but “they are allied with criminals,” Maduro said, but did not directly mention Guevara’s case.
“Some of these departments…we have pardoned them for the previous reason, but they were pardoned…they immediately joined in finding criminals, paying for violent groups and preparing for assassination,” he said.
The U.S.-backed opposition labelled Maduro as a dictator, claiming that he rigged his 2018 re-election and used the judicial system to suppress dissent. But Maduro, who retains military support, denied that the election was rigged and accused Guaido of conspiring with the United States to remove him in the coup.
“Threat will not stop us”
Following the news of Guevara’s arrest, Guaido’s wife, Fabiana Rosales, said on Twitter that security forces had entered their apartment building in eastern Caracas.
Today, we have experienced hours of suffering, siege, persecution, and today’s attempt to arrest the president in our basement. They are signs of the dictatorship of persecution, murder and imprisonment. Today they opened fire on our house. pic.twitter.com/jR8pqETrhE
-Fabiana Rosales (@FabiiRosales) July 13, 2021
A few minutes later, the reporter rushed to the scene. Neighbors gathered around two unmarked white trucks to protest. There were people wearing bulletproof vests and assault rifles in the trucks, and some people were sitting in them.
Others wore hats with DIE, an acronym for Spanish Intelligence and Strategic Police.
Soon after, an unmarked gray Toyota truck full of police rushed out of the basement garage and left the residential area.
Guaidó then walked out of an SUV and told reporters that these people had already left. He said it was not clear which part of the security forces they belonged to.
“They intercepted us in the basement and pointed their weapons at us,” Guaidó said.
The United States condemned the actions against Guevara and Guaido.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Zhong wrote on Twitter: “We strongly condemn the arrest of Venezuelan Congressman Freddie Guevara and the threats against Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido.”
She urged the international community to condemn these acts and called for the release of all political prisoners in Venezuela.