Newly jailed Venezuelan opposition leader is cut off from family, whereabouts unknown

The lawyer for one of Venezuelas most prominent opposition leaders, who was dragged in his pajamas from his home on Tuesday in a police raid, says that the Maduro administration has refused to tell him where his client is or allow him to speak with him.

Antonio Ledezma, the former mayor of a Caracas district, was first arrested in 2015 when President Nicolas Maduro accused him of scheming with the knowledge of the United States — to overthrow his government. He subsequently was placed under house arrest pending his trial.

Omar Estacio, Ledezmas attorney, told Fox News in an interview from Caracas that the former mayor has been cut off from his family and his lawyers. His family and lawyer say the governments arrest and detention of Ledezma with no information about his whereabouts amounts to nothing less than a kidnapping.

We have not been able to speak with him, Estacio said. Were not even really sure about where he is. This is a coerced disappearance.

Ledezma is legendary in Venezuela for his vocal and persistent condemnation of the Maduro administration, calling it oppressive and corrupt. The arrest of Ledezma, and the other opposition leader and former mayor, Leopoldo Lopez Jr ., came soon after an electoral on Sunday to opt members of a constituent assembly that will implement Maduros controversial mandate to rewrite the Constitution.

Estacio told authorities were conjuring up fabrications to justify the arrest of his client in 2015 and again earlier the coming week. He said they had characterized Ledezma as a flight danger, and accused him of violating terms for his arrest that called for him not to make public comments about the government.

In no way was it a part of the process for his house arrest an arrangement that he not exert his constitutional right to make public statements, Estacio said.

Ledezma , nonetheless, was less vocal — for a while, at the least, during his house arrest — in his denunciations than he typically had been, Estacio said. He noted that it was due to personal reasons, the advice of his lawyers that it might be more prudent.

After the election, which occurred under widespread doubt among many Venezuelans and experts abroad about greater legitimacy, many accused the Maduro government of manipulating the results and turnout estimations. The Constitution and new assembly basically dissolve the opportunity for political opponents to hold office and punishes disloyalty.

Both Lopez and Ledezma publicly denounced the election and what they said was the continuing deterioration of democracy in Venezuela. Sensing he would be detained and returned to jail, Lopez pre-recorded a video in anticipation of being arrested and urged Venezuelans to keep fighting for their country.

Ledezma also recorded a video, saying the country was in the grip of a tyranny, and taking his fellow Maduro opponents to task for not mounting a more vigorous fight.

In the video, which is now being posted online Monday, Ledezma denounced the election as fraud, plain and simple.”

“We know that our public institutions have become instruments of a totalitarian regime, of a tyranny, which decided to continue injury and destroying our rights, ” Ledezma said.

Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente @Foxnews. com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente .

Read more: www.foxnews.com

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Venezuela cancels Gustavo Dudamel's Berkeley appearance after he criticizes government – Marin Independent Journal


Marin Independent Journal

Political showdown in Venezuela as opposition takes control of parliament

Claims of judicial takeover as socialist chairperson, Nicol as Maduro, stiffens grip on power before lawmakers are sworn in

Venezuela is braced for a bitter political showdown as the opposition takes control of the members of parliament, pitting the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro against a alliance of lawmakers who aim to curb his power and try to set the foundering economy back on track.

In the month since the ruling PSUV party suffered a crushing defeat in Decembers elections, Maduro has managed to tighten his control and restriction the lawmakers power.

Both the opponent and the government have called on supporters to demonstrate in central Caracas on Tuesday as the 167 members of the united nations general assembly are sworn in, heightening tensions in the Venezuelan capital.

In a televised address on Monday, Maduro called for a peaceful opening conference of the assembly, the first in 16 years under control of the opposition.

Nicolás

Nicolas Maduro has called the new assembly a bourgeois parliament. Photo: AFP/ Getty Images

He said the new assembly would be a bourgeois parliament that would seek to overrule the social gains of the revolution begun by his charismatic and volatile predecessor Hugo Chavez, who commanded a fervent following even after his death in 2013 from cancer.

A social and economic crisis in Venezuela which boasts the worlds largest oil reserves but suffers from crippling inflation, widespread dearths and spiralling crime led voters to penalize the PSUV at the polls. With 112 of 167 seats in the assembly, the opposition alliance known as MUD won a large enough majority to have the power to remove cabinet members, appoint supreme court magistrates and even seek to shorten the presidents word.

But a series of measures by the government and outgoing deputies has severely limited what the new assembly can really achieve.

A presidential decree published under Monday eradicates the united nations general assembly control over the naming and removal of central bank directors and allows the bank to hold certain economic data secret. Another government measure allows it to bypass congress for budget allocation.

The moves effectively frustrate the possibility of the assembly forcing through any economic reforms.

Although the central bank has not published data regarding more than a year, independent analysts say inflation could be as high as 150% and that the economy may have contracted by 10% last year.

Before relinquishing legislative power, the ruling party deputies also named 13 new justices to the supreme court. Last week the court suspended three opposition deputies and one from the PSUV pending investigations into voting irregularities.

Losing the three seats would leave the opponent short of the super-majority, weakening its position against the government, though it would still maintain control of the assembly.

Jesús

Jesus Torrealba, head of the opposition, has called the suspension of three of its deputies a judicial takeover. Photograph: Fabiola Ferrero/ EPA

Calling the courts move a judicial takeover, Jesus Torrealba, head of the opposition alliance, said the MUD would defy the courts ruling and swear in all 112 deputies.

The people elected 112 and 112 will be sworn in, told Torrealba.

Veteran politician Henry Ramos Allup, of the Democratic Action party, was elected on Sunday to be the speaker of the assembly, promising to run the legislature somewhat. We are not going to be anti-establishment, but rather an autonomous legislative power, he said.

Maduro said the pro-government deputies in the general assembly would be led by the Homeland Bloc. He said: They will defend the people in the assembly, working to preserve the gains of Chavismo, which while the economy remained afloat, included programmes for housing, healthcare and education for Venezuelas poor.

The US said on Monday that it was worried about what it called the Venezuelan governments interference in the assembly.

We are concerned by the Venezuelan governments efforts to interfere with the newly elected national assembly exercising its constitutionally statutory mandate, John Kirby, a spokesman for the state department, told reporters.

Maduro criticised the statement as US interference in Venezuelan politics. What does the state department “re going to have to” do with the swearing in of the united nations general assembly? he asked.

Maduro is due to address the new assembly on 10 January, in his annual state of the union speech.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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