By: Daniel Mitri and Leigha Vegh
A video has surfaced of former Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma being taken away from his home by men donning ‘Sebin’ uniforms, which is Venezuela’s intelligence agency, on Tuesday morning.
Ledezma’s arrest came in the middle of the night, where video footage shows him being dragged away in his pajamas. The arrest follows a video Ledezma posted on July 31 encouraging the Venezuelan people to continue to fight against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.
“We can lose everything but not our enthusiasm, not our decency, not our dignity and this is why, my dear Venezuelan friends, I invite you to continue the fight!” Ledezma said in the video he released on Monday.
The political opponent’s whereabouts is currently unknown.
Leopoldo Lopez, another former mayor of Caracas, was also arrested in the middle of the night, without a warrant being issued. Both men are well-known critics of President Maduro, with Lopez acting as the international face of Venezuela’s government opposition.
Both Ledezma and Lopez have been under house arrest for their political opposition; Ledezma for plotting a coup against Maduro, and Lopez for his contribution to street protests in 2014. The arrests of the two men continues to fuel claims that Venezuela’s government is a dictatorship.
Despite the new U.S. sanctions on Maduro, he has no intentions to change his plans of rewriting the Venezuelan constitution and targeting his political opponents, he said on Monday evening in Caracas.
The Venezuelan government seems to be holding the two men as political prisoners for their international popularity, according to liaison between the Canadian Government and the Venezuelan democratic organizations, Alessandra Polga.
“The demands of Mr. Ledezma and Mr. Lopez are the same demands of the people of Venezuela: the return of democracy, freedom of election and freedom of speech,” she said, adding that President Maduro’s regime is being compared to those in North Korea and Syria.
The United Nations has also issued a statement, calling for the release of any prisoner arrested for exercising their freedom of speech, and claiming the arrests will only worsen the already volatile situation.
“They held an illegal election on July 30, with over 40 countries in the international community rejecting the outcome,” said Polga, adding that protests of the election have resulted in the deaths of several Venezuelan citizens.
The international community can continue to help the people of Venezuela by issuing sanctions against President Maduro and the Venezuelan regime, she said.
Maduro took the role of President of Venezuela in 2013, following the death of former president Hugo Chavez. He has been at the centre of a series of controversies since his election, which is also marked by a major economic crisis in Venezuela, causing food and medicine shortages across the country.
Here is the video of Ledezma being removed from his home on Tuesday morning: