Venezuela’s National Assembly under siege

The illegitimate regime of Nicolás Maduro is harassing its opponents who have been elected to serve in the only democratic institution left in Venezuela.

Juan Guaidó, center, and Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the National Assembly, left, at the Federal Legislative Palace on January 5, 2019 (© Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)
Juan Guaidó, center, and Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the National Assembly, left, at the Federal Legislative Palace on January 5, 2019 (© Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

Harass. Detain. That’s what the Maduro regime does to its opponents in Venezuela’s National Assembly, the country’s sole surviving democratic institution.

On January 13, the regime’s Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) arrested and detained interim President Juan Guaidó. When the United States and the international community, including the Organization of American States, swiftly condemned the action, Guaidó was released.

What other government figures has Maduro harassed or detained? Some 67 Assembly deputies, says Caracas’ Analítica. That’s nearly two-thirds of the duly elected opposition bloc reporting harassment, imprisonment or worse.

Imprisoned lawmaker Gilber Caro in Caracas, Venezuela, on June 12, 2018 (© Reuters TV)
Imprisoned lawmaker Gilber Caro in Caracas, Venezuela, on June 12, 2018 (© Reuters TV)

Sometimes the Maduro regime moves beyond harassment, beyond imprisonment, all the way to torture. Example: popular Caracas deputy Gilber Caro. Held repeatedly by Maduro’s intelligence service, Caro has been a victim of SEBIN torture and given only starvation rations. Caro was arrested again in April and hasn’t been seen since. His lawyer considers him “disappeared.”

Other legislators, elected by the Venezuelan people, have been forced to seek refuge in foreign embassies: deputy Freddy Guevara in Chile’s, deputy Americo de Grazia at Italy’s and deputy Franco Manuel Casella in Mexico’s. Deputy Richard Blanco is now a “guest” of the Argentine ambassador. A dozen more of their National Assembly colleagues have fled to neighboring countries.

Deputy Freddy Guevara, exiled at the Chilean ambassador’s residence, on May 11, 2019 (© Fernando Llano/AP Images)
Deputy Freddy Guevara, exiled at the Chilean ambassador’s residence, on May 11, 2019 (© Fernando Llano/AP Images)

Deputy Freddy Guevara, exiled at the Chilean ambassador’s residence, on May 11, 2019 (© Fernando Llano/AP Images)
In May, Maduro’s regime arrested the National Assembly’s first vice president, Edgar Zambrano. He remains in custody.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Zambrano’s illegal imprisonment “an attack on the independence of [Venezuela’s] democratically elected legislative branch.” In an interview, Pompeo said, “Our task is to continue to support all those who are supporting Juan Guaidó.”


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