By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan authorities have detained two members of opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s security team, keeping pressure on their U.S.-backed adversary even as the two sides hold talks aimed at finding a solution to the country’s political standoff.
The two men planned to sell four guns belonging to the state that were allegedly used during Guaidó’s failed military rebellion on April 30, socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello said Saturday. Information Minister Jorge Rodríguez also said the alleged attempt to sell weapons while negotiating with the government reflected opposition deceit.
He said the government would later present proof of the allegation, which the opposition says is false.
Guaidó on Friday tweeted that two members of his team, Erick Sánchez y Jason Parisi, had been taken into custody in Caracas while providing security for his family as he traveled outside the capital. He speculated that authorities would plant weapons on the two men in order to frame them in a manner that he said was similar to a case against his detained chief of staff, Roberto Marrero.
Probablemente Erick y Jason están siendo torturados en este momento.
El régimen intentará montar una nueva olla, sepan que no nos vamos a detener hasta recuperar la libertad y el respeto a los Derechos Humanos en Venezuela.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) July 13, 2019
“We know what we’re fighting against: A dictatorship,” said Guaidó, who addressed supporters in the western state of Trujillo on Saturday.
Despite tension over the arrests, there was no immediate indication that plans to resume talks between the Venezuelan government and the opposition would be disrupted. The two sides held several days of discussions on the Caribbean island of Barbados last week, and said they will continue negotiations next week.
The government and the opposition gave upbeat assessments after the last round of talks, though negotiations in previous years have collapsed and major issues remain contentious. Guaidó contends Maduro’s re-election last year was invalid and wants early presidential elections: the government accuses the opposition of fomenting violence.
As the political dispute drags on, Venezuela is sinking deeper into an economic and humanitarian crisis that has forced millions of people to leave the country in recent years.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Venezuela to try to dislodge Maduro, compounding hardship in a country whose economy, including its key oil industry, has been in sharp decline for many years.
Also Saturday, Cabello and other key supporters of Maduro held a demonstration to condemn a scathing report on Venezuela by Michele Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Rally speakers said the report, which chronicles torture, sexual abuse and extrajudicial killings by government security forces, is inaccurate and biased.