CARACAS, Venezuela— Two of Venezuela’s best opposition figures were taken from their homes in the intermediate of the night by state security assistants on Tuesday, in President Nicolas Maduro’s first moves against his criminals since a generally denounced vote giving his government nearly absolute powers.
The wife of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez posted what appeared to be video of him being appropriated from their home after midnight.
“They’ve just taken Leopoldo from the home,” Lilian Tintori wrote on Twitter. “We don’t know where he is or where they’re taking him.”
Allies of old Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma posted video online of a man who appeared to be the opposition leader being taken by state security as a woman howls for help for neighbors.
“They’re taking Ledezma!” she cries. “It’s an autocracy!”
Lopez was confined three years ago after challenges against Maduro’s government and blamed to more than a decade in jail on charges that include exhorting protesters to violence. He was discharged last month to serve the rest of his term under home arrest. Ledezma, a former Caracas mayor, was also confined in 2015 and has been under home arrest.
Both have newly posted videos online denouncing Maduro’s decision to hold a vote for a constitutional assembly with the power to fix Venezuela’s political system.
Maduro said Monday evening he had no aim of straying from his plans to rewrite the constitution and go after a string of criminals, from independent Venezuelan news channels to gunmen he asked were sent by neighboring Colombia to disturb the vote as part of an international scheme led by the man he calls “Emperor Donald Trump.”
“They don’t bully me. The threats and approvals of the empire don’t intimidate me for a minute,” Maduro said on national television. “I don’t get to orders from the empire, not now or ever … Bring on more approvals, Donald Trump.”
A few hours previous, Washington added Maduro to a regularly incrementing list of high-ranking Venezuelan officials targeted by financial approvals, expanding a tactic that has so far declined to alter his free government’s behavior. For now, the Trump administration has not delivered on risks to approval Venezuela’s oil industry, which could blunt Maduro’s government but raise U.S. gas prices and deepen the humanitarian trouble here.
The sanctions came after electoral authorities said more than 8 million people voted Sunday to make the constitutional assembly — a turnout doubted by independent analysts while the election was classified illegitimate by leaders across the Americans and Europe.
Venezuela’s National Electoral Council said turnout in Sunday’s vote was 41.53 %, or 8,089,320 people. The result would mean the ruling party won more support than it had in any national election since 2013, despite a making economy, convoluted inflation, dearth of medicine and starvation. Opinion polls had said some 85 % of Venezuelans rejected of the constitutional assembly and identical numbers rejected of Maduro’s overall achievement.
Opposition leaders predicted the real turnout at less than half the government’s allegation in a vote watched by government-allied viewers but no internationally recognized poll auditors.
An exit poll based on surveys from 110 voting centers by New York investment bank Torino Capital and a Venezuela public Reaction Company estimated 3.6 million people voted, or about 18.5 % of registered voters.
The national electoral council’s vote counts in the past had been seen as decent and generally accurate, but the widely mocked statement appeared certain to grow the polarization and political clash paralyzing the country.
The constituent assembly will have the effort of rewriting the country’s constitution and will have powers above and beyond other state institutions, including the opposition-controlled congress.
Maduro has said the new assembly will start to govern within a week. Among other part, he said he would use the assembly’s powers to bar opposition candidates from running in dominant elections in December unless they sit with his party to agree an end to hostilities that have generated four months of challenge that have killed at least 120 and wounded nearly 2,000.
Along with the U.S., the European Union and nations including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Spain and Britain criticized Sunday’s vote. Maduro said he had received congratulations from the governments of Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua, among others.
Maduro called the constitutional assembly in May after a month of objection against his government, which has command Venezuela’s slide into a devastating crisis during its four years in power. Due to plunging oil prices and widespread corruption and mismanagement, Venezuela’s boom and homicide rates are among the world’s highest, and widespread shortages of food and medicine have citizens dying of preventable illnesses and rooting through trash to feed themselves.