A government crisis in Venezuela reached new heights Tuesday when a video surfaced showing armed forces raiding the homes of political opponents of the country's president, Nicolas Maduro, whom the United States has officially called a dictator. The largely symbolic measures - which freeze Maduro's USA assets (if he has any) and bar Americans from doing business with him - seem to be playing right into one of the the president's favorite rallying cries against the Yankee imperialists.
The Venezuelan supreme court said in a statement Tuesday that Lopez and Ledezma were picked up because they violated the terms of their house arrest and intelligence sources said they were planning to escape.
Lopez's wife posted security-camera video of him being taken from their home and bundled into a waiting vehicle.
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"Despite of this attachment of family that we have, I am willing to move forward, and continue telling Venezuelans what I consider is the path for freedom and democracy", he said in the video released Tuesday.
USA imports of Venezuelan crude in the first four months this year averaged 724,000 barrels per day (bpd), or about 9 percent of all oil imports. Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma was also seized, according to his wife.
"Mr. Lopez and Mr. Ledezma are political prisoners being held illegally by the regime", it said, calling "for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners". "We hoped that the situation would change, but judging by everything, if it is going to change, then it won't be soon. we have to show that we will not let this go unanswered".
OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro called for new parliamentary elections and accused Maduro's government of killings and repression.
US National Security Adviser Herbert R. McMaster on Monday announced direct sanctions by the US government, including freezing Maduro's assets in Washington and prohibiting American citizens from carrying out economic transactions with the Venezuelan leader.
The men are two of Venezuela's most high-profile opposition leaders.
She says Maduro must accept the assembly's authority and restore its full powers. The Supreme Court unexpectedly released Lopez from jail in June to serve out the remainder of his sentence under house arrest. A credible opposition plebiscite on July 16 garnered more than 7.5 million votes that rejected the constituent assembly. Venezuela has also become a "narcostate", with cabinet members indicted for drug trafficking, nephews of the First Lady convicted of drug running to the us and other top officials known as drug kingpins.
"This action is further evidence of the Maduro regime's authoritarianism", he added, speaking one day after senior U.S. officials declared for the first time that they now regard Maduro, who was elected as a socialist, as a dictator. As Venezuelans suffer food shortages and violence escalates, Maduro is seeking to rewrite the constitution after a Sunday vote to choose members of a so-called constituent assembly that the opposition and many foreign governments refused to recognize.
Two of Venezuela's main opposition leaders were hauled away from their homes in the middle of the night.
After the coup, Chavez asserted numerous times that United States government officials knew about plans for the coup and approved of them. The conflicts have resulted in at least 125 dead and wounded almost 2,000 since protests began in April. In fact, polls have shown the opposite, indicating more than 80 percent of Venezuelans disapprove of the job Maduro is doing.
The newly elected constituent assembly was to be sworn in in early August.