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Venezuelan opposition to stage protest after Maduro jails its leaders

  • Maria Isabel Sanchez

    Agence France-Presse

Caracas, Venezuela   /   Wed, August 2, 2017   /   01:28 pm
Venezuelan opposition to stage protest after Maduro jails its leaders Political standoff -- An opposition members holds a handwritten message that that reads in Spanish; (AP/Fernando Llano)

Venezuela's opposition will hold a protest rally Thursday to coincide with the expected inauguration of a new assembly that will rewrite the constitution in what has been decried as a power grab by President Nicolas Maduro.

At the close of a day in which two prominent opposition leaders were arrested, the opposition announced the demonstration will be Thursday, instead of Wednesday as originally planned. The change came after opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara said the Maduro government plans to install the "fraudulent" assembly on Thursday.

It was elected Sunday amid protests and deadly violence but the government has not specified what day it would take up its seats. It just said within 72 hours of being elected.

Early Tuesday the intelligence service hauled two prominent opposition leaders back to prison in the dead of night, triggering an international outcry as embattled Maduro moved to shore up his power after the election, widely denounced as a sham.

In a statement, the Supreme Court said protest leader Leopoldo Lopez and Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma were sent back to prison because they had violated the terms of their house arrest by making political statements.

Authorities acted with urgency, it said, because they had received intelligence that the pair "had a plan to flee" -- something the men's lawyers vehemently denied.

In a video he pre-recorded in case he was sent back to jail, Lopez urged his supporters to keep fighting Maduro's government.

"If you're seeing this video, it's because they illegally and unjustly came and returned me to prison. I'm a political prisoner," he said.

"We must not give up the fight. We must never surrender. We must not tire of demanding a better Venezuela."