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article imageMaduro accuses opposition of staging arrest of parliament president

By AFP     Jan 14, 2019 in World

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused his opponents Monday of staging the arrest of parliament president Juan Guaido by intelligence service agents.

Guaido was detained for around an hour after SEBIN agents stopped his car on a highway outside the capital Caracas, picking him up as he traveled to a political rally in a nearby town.

"Ah, what a coincidence! A camera perfectly placed... professional, which caught the moment the deputy... was detained in a strange event," said Maduro, speaking to the Constituent Assembly of loyalists he created last year to replace the National Assembly he lost control of in 2016.

Maduro said the arrest took place with "the corrupt and treacherous cooperation of" the SEBIN agents.

"So, I will act against any official that betrays the public oath," he added.

"An iron fist to corruption! I won't tremble before anyone... From every show we'll emerge stronger."

Following news of the arrest on Sunday, Maduro's government denied any knowledge of the incident and branded it a "media circus."

It said the SEBIN officers were "being dismissed and subjected to a stricter disciplinary procedure."

Guaido responded by mocking the president.

"So Maduro no longer controls the armed forces because the chain of command was broken," said Guaido once he reached his meeting in the town of Caraballeda, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the capital.

"Who is commanding the regime now? If they're already admitting that they don't control the state's security agencies, there's a serious problem at Miraflores," he added, referring to the presidential palace.

The incident came two days after Guaido spoke out against Maduro's assumption of a second six-year term after winning controversial elections in May that were boycotted by the opposition and branded a fraud by the United States, European Union and Organization of American States.

On Friday, the 35-year-old Guaido had said that the Venezuelan constitution gave him the authority to assume power as part of a transitionial government after branding Maduro a "usurper."

He also urged Venezuelans to take to the streets in protest against Maduro on January 23, a significant date as it was then in 1958 that the military dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez fell.

But the parliament he heads has been left impotent since the Supreme Court, made up of Maduro allies, stripped it of all its powers in 2017.

- 'Terrorist attack' -

It's not the first time Maduro has accused the opposition of staging events to make the government look bad.

A power cut at the University Hospital in Caracas on Saturday left two people dead, while 100 others had to be evacuated, according to the health union.

Maduro blamed the incident on opposition activists he accused of having damaged electricity supply equipment.

"It was a terrorist attack planned as a show by terrorists who are today commanded by the Venezuelan opposition," he said.

"We are going to fight them hard and defeat them."

Electrical supply is unreliable in Venezuela, which is in a fourth year of recession marked by staggeringly high inflation the International Monetary Fund predicts will hit 10 million percent this year.

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