Police In Venezuela Seize Two Opposition Leaders From Their Homes In The Middle Of The Night

Two outspoken opposition leaders were seized from their homes by police in Venezuela late Monday night. According to the Associated Press, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma were taken by state security forces in the middle of the night, prompting public pleas from their families, friends and allies inquiring about their whereabouts. Analysts believe the arrests were orchestrated in response to a Sunday’s controversial election, which President Nicolas Maduro declared a “sweeping victory” for his supporters.

Videos of both seizures were posted online. The first, posted by Ledezma’s allies, purportedly shows the former mayor being forced outside by police in full S.W.A.T. gear while his neighbors exclaim, “They’re taking Ledezma! It’s a dictatorship!” The man identified as Ledezma is meanwhile still wearing his blue pajamas. Meanwhile, the second video was initially posted to Twitter by Lopez’s wife, the activist Lilian Tintori, who obtained it from security footage recorded just outside their home. A man she identifies as Lopez is seen being forced into a police vehicle that subsequently drives away with a small motorcade. “They’ve just taken Leopoldo from the house,” she wrote. “We don’t know where he is or where they’re taking him.”

After assuming the presidency following the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, Maduro has continued his predecessor’s dictatorial policies despite Venezuela’s continuing economic decline. Sunday’s election, seen by many as a farce meant to consolidate the president’s power, has led to many violent protests. Even the country’s attorney general blasted it, Luisa Ortega called it “the end of freedom of expression.” The United States Treasury Department slapped sanctions on Venezuela in response to the election, though U.S. officials have yet to comment officially on Lopez and Ledezma’s arrests.

(Via Associated Press and CNN)