The United Kingdom on Tuesday condemned the arrest of Venezuelan politician Freddy Guevara, a close ally of Juan Guaido. Guaido, the opposition leader, is recognized as Venezuela's legitimate president by the United States and some other nations.
Guevara, who was arrested on a highway in the capital city of Caracas has been charged with terrorism and treason among other allegations. Venezuela, on Wednesday, announced charges of terrorism against President Guaido too.
Guevara, former first vice president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, was in 2017, charged with instigating violence, was pardoned less than a year ago.
"The UK condemns the arrest of Freddy Guevara & intimidation of interim Venezuelan President Juan Guaido. The illegitimate Maduro regime must release Mr Guevara & all political prisoners. Free, fair elections are the only way to end the crisis in Venezuela", British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted.
The US condemned Guevara's detention and called for his immediate release. "The United States strongly condemns the unjust detention of 2015 National Assembly representative Freddy Guevara and harassment of interim President Juan Guaido in Venezuela," US State Department spokesman Ned Price told Reuters. Guevara's whereabouts are unknown.
Support has been pouring in for Guevara on social media
“You can’t negotiate anything with a regime that terrorizes and jails its opponents. The international community should hit #Venezuela’s #Maduro regime hard for this outrage,” wrote Stephen Johnson, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs wrote on Twitter.
“Freddy is still missing. My thoughts are with his family in these times, and hoping this nightmare ends soon. #DondeEstaFreddyGuevara,” wrote another user on Twitter.
"#Venezuela arrests key opposition figure Freddy Guevara, an ally of Interim President Juan Guaidó. Canada recognizes Guaidó as the legitimate leader & currently has sanctions against 112 officials of the Maduro regime. #cdnpoli,” Dr Hedy Fry, MP MP for Vancouver Centre, Canada wrote on Twitter.
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch wrote, “Venezuela's Maduro is trying to suggest that reform is possible to get sanctions lifted. Then his forces arrested leading opposition figure, Freddy Guevara. Hardly the most convincing signal of reform.”
Guaido said, “Minutes after the dictatorship kidnapped Deputy Freddy Guevara, alleged officials of security organs, pointed long weapons and even triggering an explosive, they temporarily detained me and me members of my team in the basement of my residence." Guaido's wife Fabiana Rosales shared the interim President' statement on Facebook.
Gaudio also said that unidentified armed men threatened him with arrest earlier on
Monday. Venezuela's Attorney-General Tarek William Saab said Guevara would be charged with "the crimes of terrorism, attacks against the constitutional order, conspiracy to commit a crime and treason,” a BBC report reads. The prosecutor's office hasn't said where Guevara is being held. A spokesperson for Guaido's office said Guevara was taken to the Sebin intelligence service's Helicoide prison in Caracas.
On Monday, the US started easing trade sanctions the Trump administration imposed on Venezuela. The US and Venezuelan governments are gearing for talks to resolve the South American country's deep political crisis.
Venezuela's opposition, which has the backing of the US has alleged that Nicolas Maduro rigged the 2018 election and is using the justice system to repress dissent. Julie Chung, Acting Assistant Secretary for the US Department of State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, urged the international community to join in condemning the acts and called for the release of all political prisoners in Venezuela.
Maduro has denied any interference in the elections and said that Guaido is conspiring a coup against him and called Guaido a US puppet.