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Venezuela braces for unrest as Maduro clamps down

AFP  |  Caracas 

braced Saturday for another day of nationwide protests after clamped down further on Juan Guaido, locking up his deputy in a military prison following a dramatic arrest.

Edgar Zambrano, of the opposition-majority National Assembly, is being held in preventive detention for "the flagrant commission of the crimes of treason, conspiracy and civil rebellion," the said in a statement announcing the verdict of a lower court.

Zambrano was arrested by Maduro's SEBIN intelligence service in dramatic circumstances on Wednesday for supporting the April 30 revolt organized by US-backed Guaido.

Maduro also accused his sacked of being a CIA "mole" and the of the failed military uprising.

He said was "the one who orchestrated the coup d'etat" by contacting the group of around 30 members of the armed forces who joined Guaido's mass demonstration.

"He was captured by the CIA a year ago and was working as a traitor, mole and infiltrator," Maduro said of Figuera, whose defection to the opposition saw him rewarded earlier this week by the US, which removed him from its sanctions list.

The latest regime actions ratcheted up tensions ahead of a national demonstration Guaido called for Saturday to reject measures taken by the against opposition lawmakers.

Zambrano is one of 10 charged by the for participating in the April 30 movement.

He was transferred to the headquarters of the military police, Fort Tiuna, the court said.

One of the other charged lawmakers, Luis Florido, announced in a video on Friday that he had fled to neighbouring Colombia, "sheltered from a regime that is willing to imprison deputies," he said.

Three others -- Richard Blanco, and -- have sought refuge in the and Italian embassies in

Zambrano's denounced the procedure under which Zambrano, a civilian, was sent to a military prison, and said his rights had been violated.

"From the moment of the arrest, they have violated the deputy's rights. We did not have access to the file, nor could we be appointed in his defense," Camejo told reporters.

Guaido said on Thursday the arrests were part of a bid by Maduro to dismantle the legislature, Venezuela's sole opposition-controlled institution but one which had already been rendered powerless by the pro-Maduro Supreme Court.

"If we can talk about a coup d'etat in Venezuela, here it is: the dismantling of the national parliament," Guaido told a conference, accusing Maduro's regime of "state terrorism."

The increase in regime repression "may be a precursor" to targeting Guaido himself, said Latin American of

"Zambrano's arrest may be a test to gauge the response of the international community before it moves against Guaido."

His arrest on Wednesday night was both bizarre and dramatic.

The lawmaker commented on events live on as they unfolded.

The 64-year-old's car was surrounded outside his before it was towed, with him still inside, to the notorious inside

Guaido's latest attempt to undermine armed forces support for the embattled Maduro fizzled out after two days of clashes between protesters and the that left several people dead.

was plunged into turmoil in January when Guaido declared himself acting in a direct challenge to Maduro's authority.

He has since been recognized by more than 50 as he steps up the pressure to oust Maduro, whom he considers illegitimate after 2018 elections widely seen as fraudulent.

But through months of crisis, Maduro -- supported by China, and his armed forces -- has stood firm.

"The existing external and internal pressures have not been enough to convince Maduro and his inner circle to negotiate their exit ramp. What happens next in is highly uncertain," said of the

Separately on Friday, Venezuela announced it was re-opening its land border with after Maduro ordered it shut in February, frustrating Guaido's attempt to bring stockpiled mostly-US humanitarian aid across the border.

Vice said the frontier with was "once again restored," and maritime links with the were also reopened.

However, the border with and links with other parts of the former -- closed at the same time on Maduro's orders -- will remain shut, El Aissami said.

Venezuela has suffered more than four years of recession marked by shortages of basic necessities such as and medicine.

The says a quarter of its 30 million population are in urgent need of aid, and more than 2.7 million have fled the deprivation.

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

First Published: Sat, May 11 2019. 14:01 IST