Intelligence agents arrested on Thursday 21 March at dawn the chief of staff of the Venezuelan opposition Juan Guaido, the self-proclaimed interim president. The latter denounced a “vile” and “crude” manoeuvre and warned that he would not be intimidated.
Roberto Marrero is accused of “terrorism”, announced Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, live on television. He is also accused of having “held a significant amount of weapons”.
“They arrested Roberto Marrero, my chief of staff, on charges of holding two rifles and a grenade[intentionally placed in his home]. The arrest occurred at around 2 a.m.[7 a.m. in Paris],” Guaido announced on Twitter, engaged in an arm wrestling match with incumbent Head of State Nicolas Maduro for two months.
Mr. Guaido then spoke to journalists:
“They want to intimidate me? But they can’t all go after us. They want to come and get me? Let them come[but] they will not be able to divert us from the road we are setting out. »
For him, Mr. Maduro’s government is trying to instill “fear” in the opposition ranks and exposes his “weakness” in doing so.
The EU calls for the “immediate release” of Mr. Marrero.
Juan Guaido, President of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, was himself arrested by the Venezuelan intelligence services (Sebin) on 13 January in a spectacular operation on the highway, before being released an hour later.
Mr. Marrero’s brutal arrest was immediately condemned by the head of American diplomacy, Mike Pompeo: “We call for his immediate release. Those who hold him will have to be held accountable,” he warned via Twitter.
The UN has called for “no escalation” of tension: “We reiterate our call for all actors in Venezuela to take immediate steps to reduce tensions,” said one of its spokespersons in New York.
The European Union has also called for an “immediate and unconditional release” of the opponent. France also insisted on “stopping the repression against the opposition to Nicolas Maduro’s regime” while human rights organisations denounce the arrests and detentions without trial in the country.
“The dictatorship is holding these two citizens back.”
Mr. Marrero, a lawyer by profession, was arrested during a Sebin operation at his home. Marrero lived near MP Sergio Vergara. He was arrested during an Sebin operation in the Las Mercedes residential area of Caracas, not far from there.
During his arrest, Roberto Marrero “shouted that[the members of the Sebin] had placed two rifles and a grenade in his home. They took him away and I told him to stay strong,” Mr. Vergara told the press.
Vergara said that about 15 agents had thrown him to the ground and “visited” his house, before questioning him about Roberto Marrero’s home. During this operation, which he said lasted two hours, two prosecutors were present. He added that “They started to force into Roberto Marrero’s house, which is a few meters from mine, until they managed to get in.”
This arrest comes at a time when Venezuela has been plunged into a deep political crisis since Mr. Guaido proclaimed himself interim president on 23 January, challenging the regularity of Mr. Maduro’s re-election, which he claims is marred by fraud.
Mr. Guaido has repeatedly stated that he is prepared to authorize foreign military intervention. US President Donald Trump reiterated on Tuesday that “all options” were being examined to remove Nicolas Maduro from power. “It is shameful what is happening in Venezuela – debt and destruction and famine,” he added.