Video of intelligence police taking Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma away
After two weeks of threatening to arrest him, intelligence police (SEBIN) raided the offices of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezama and forcibly took him away while shooting into the air as they left. The intelligence police had no arrest warrant and it was not until President Maduro later spoke on forced nationwide TV that the President confirmed that he had been arrested “on orders” from the Prosecutor.
Venezuelan media did not report the incident (other than El Nacional) for hours, as people gathered outside the SEBIN offices near Plaza Venezuela. But it was not until the early hours of the morning that it was learned that Ledezma was being held in El Helicoide.
Maduro claimed that Ledezma would be tried for his “crimes against peace”, noting in particular, that he had signed a letter which was nothing but a conspiracy against him. The letter was signed by Ledezma, Leopolodo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado and called for a “transition Government” of national unity.
Maduro revealed that he had been in Cuba during the Carnival break, suggesting that this strategy was cooked up there. The strategy is likely to be to create protests, intimidate and at the same time distract the population from the numerous economic problems the country has. This is a typical strategy by Chavismo of becoming aggressive whenever its popularity goes down, looking to show that the President (Chávez then, Maduro now) is in charge and deserves the support of its sympathizers.
The concern is that what the Government wants to do is minimize the leadership of the opposition ahead of the Parliamentary elections. Polls suggest that Chavismo will lose such an election by a wide margin, but at this time Maduro is likely trying to stop the opposition from obtaining a 2/3 majority. If this were the case, the National Assembly could approve Bills before the new Assembly takes over, moving subjects, such as budgetary approval and the like, to the Executive branch. If the opposition did not obtain the 2/3 majority it would be unable to overturn such Bills.
The detention does little to help the image of Maduro internationally, but it has been clear for quite a while that he cares little about that and is behaving like an outright Dictator. The outcry so far internationally is the loudest since the detention of Leopoldo Lopez, but the immediate reaction and condemnation of the detention.
For the opposition, taking advantage of the Government’s low popularity will not be easy. The opposition lacks access to the media and has precarious financing. If its leadership were to be jailed, the battle would become even more uphill to obtain 2/3 of the Deputies in the National Assembly. Any possible Electoral discrepancies would never be investigated, Chavismo would achieve its goal of keeping power no matter what. Clearly, there seems to be no one that opposes Maduro within the Government at this time.
Going forward repression is likely to increase as the Government sets aside any pretense of being democratic.