The Latest: Police take No. 2 leader of Venezuela congress
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The latest on the political conflict in Venezuela (all times local):
Venezuelan lawmakers say security forces have arrested the No. 2 leader in the opposition-controlled congress as political tensions mount in the crisis-wracked nation.
The lawmakers say National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano was in his car when it was surrounded by heavily armed police outside his Democratic Action party’s headquarters Wednesday.
Party head Carlos Prosperi says security forces towed the car away with the lawmaker still inside.
Government officials announced that Zambrano and several other lawmakers were under investigation for treason and instigating an insurrection.
Zambrano is one of nine opposition politicians who appeared with opposition leader Juan Guaidó during last week’s failed attempt to encourage a military uprising against President Nicolas Maduro.
The head of Venezuela’s top court says the United States is trying to manipulate the Venezuelan justice system in an attempt to foment a coup.
Maikel Moreno, president of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, spoke Wednesday following U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks that the U.S. would extend sanctions to all members of the Venezuelan court if they continue to be a “political tool” of President Nicolás Maduro.
Moreno says Pence’s comments threaten the sovereignty of Venezuela, where a power struggle between Maduro and the U.S.-backed opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, has been going on for months.
Pence also said Tuesday that the U.S. lifted sanctions on a top Venezuelan general, Manuel Figuera, who broke ranks with Maduro during Guaidó’s failed call last week for a military uprising.
Spain’s acting foreign minister says the U.S. government’s approach to Venezuela’s crisis is “like a western cowboy” who is threatening to draw his gun.
Josep Borrell says the Latin American country needs “a peaceful, negotiated and democratic solution” to its problems.
Borrell told Spanish public broadcaster TVE on Wednesday that Spain and other European countries “will continue to reject any pressure that borders on military intervention” in Venezuela.
U.S. officials have repeatedly said that “all options are on the table” as they weigh how to remove socialist President Nicolás Maduro from power.
Both Spain and the United States have recognized congress leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president. They say Maduro’s re-election last year was fraudulent.
The U.S. has lifted sanctions on a top Venezuelan general who broke ranks with President Nicolás Maduro, trying to help the opposition regain momentum in the face of a government crackdown following last week’s failed uprising.
Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech Tuesday that the immediate lifting of financial sanctions for Gen. Manuel Figuera is intended to encourage others in the military to abandon their support for Maduro.
The Treasury Department says the move involving Venezuela’s former spy chief is a display of “good faith” designed to elicit “concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order” by dozens of other sanctioned Venezuelan insiders.
Figuera was the sole regime insider to defy Maduro during the uprising called for by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, whom the U.S. considers the country’s legitimate president.