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Guaido aide arrested in Venezuela as regime defies

AFP  |  Caracas 

Defying US warnings, Nicolas Maduro's regime on Thursday arrested a top aide of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who recognizes as Venezuela's

Guaido and the opposition-ruled denounced the arrest of Roberto Marrero, charging on that he was taken from his home during a pre-dawn raid by intelligence officers.

The has repeatedly warned Venezuelan Maduro against arresting Guaido or his aides.

The and a grouping of Latin American nations plus vigorously condemned the arrest and demanded Marrero's release.

"They have grabbed Roberto Marrero, my He yelled out that they planted two rifles and a grenade" as a pretext for the arrest, Guaido tweeted. "The raid happened at around 2:00 am (0600 GMT). We don't know his whereabouts.

He must be released immediately." He later told a conference that "we won't be intimidated" by the "vile, vulgar kidnapping." Maduro and Guaido both claim to be Venezuela's legitimate leaders but Maduro, 56, retains the loyalty of the military brass and has control of state apparatus.

Guaido, 35, declared himself interim on January 23 and has the backing of the US and more than 50 other countries, mostly in and the US.

"The condemns raids by Maduro's and detention of Roberto Marrero, to Interim @jguaido. We call for his immediate release. We will hold accountable those involved," Pompeo said on

US President has said, as recently as Tuesday, that "all options" remain on the table in his drive to bring down Maduro, implying military action if he deemed it necessary.

So far, however, the power struggle in has bogged down in an impasse, with Maduro railing daily about the US "imperialists" trying to dislodge him and Guaido touring the country to rally supporters and pledging he'll be taking over "very soon."

Maduro's forces have reinforced obstacles blocking a border bridge linking and to prevent Guaido's supporters trucking in US aid. Extra shipping containers and concrete blocks have been moved into place on the bridge. In addition to seizing Marrero early Thursday, officers of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service, or SEBIN, raided the home in the same building of an opposition lawmaker,

Vergara was not arrested. He told reporters that he saw Marrero bundled off into the street.

He said around 15 SEBIN officers threw him to the floor and "ransacked" his own home for around two hours, while asking where to find Marrero, a who works in the

"They started to bash on the door of Roberto Marrero's place, which is a few meters (yards) from my door, until they were able to get inside," he said. "The dictatorship is abducting citizens," he added.

According to a human rights NGO, Foro Penal, Venezuelan authorities are holding 866 people on political grounds, most of them without trial.

The Lima Group, a grouping that includes Argentina, Brasil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru, issued a statement "calling for Nicolas Maduro's illegitimate and dictatorial regime to immediately release Mr. Marrero" and leave Vergara alone.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, March 22 2019. 01:05 IST