Venezuela’s opposition leader has demanded the release of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, who was arrested over claims of involvement in a plot to topple President Nicolas Maduro.
CCTV America’s Martin Markovits filed this report from Caracas.
Protests in Venezuela over jailed opposition leader accused of coup plotVenezuela's opposition leader has demanded the release of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, who was arrested over claims of involvement in a plot to topple President Nicolas Maduro. CCTV America's Martin Markovits filed this report from Caracas.
Venezuelan intelligence officials went into the offices of Antonio Ledezma on Thursday night and detained the veteran opposition mayor of Venezuela’s capital and largest city. Supporters called it kidnapping and mobilized to protest his detention.
President Nicolas Maduro was defiant, saying the 59-year-old mayor was part of a U.S.-backed plot to bomb the presidential palace and force the Venezuelan president out of power.
“On the orders of state prosecutors, the mayor was captured and will be processed by the Venezuelan justice system for crimes committed against the peace of the country,” the president said.
Supporters of the Ledezma said his arrest was politically motivated in order to shift the public focus away from Venezuela’s deep economic problems. Supply shortages and an inflation rate over 60 percent have made President Maduro’s popularity plummet to a 20 percent approval rating since his narrow election win in 2013. Maduro replaced the late Hugo Chavez, but both regularly accused the U.S. and right wing forces of trying to topple their governments.
In a statement, the U.S. State Department said it believes Ledezma’s arrest “appears to be the Venezuelan government’s effort to escalate intimidation of its political opponents by rounding up prominent leaders of the opposition.” A year ago, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was arrested for his role in violent street protests that lasted four months and led to the deaths of 43 people.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton followed the lead of Human Rights Watch and the United Nations in urging the Venezuelan government to free all political prisoners. Even so, the Maduro government has remained firm that these officials would be prosecuted under the law and soon new evidence would be released that would prove Ledezma’s involvement in a coup.
Prof. Arturo Lopez-Levy of NYU discusses Venezuela mayor arrest
CCTV America interviewed Arturo Lopez-Levy for more insight on the situation in Venezuela. He is an adjunct professor of international affairs at New York University (NYU).