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Venezuelan congress leader briefly detained amid standoff

AP  |  Caracas (Venezuela) 

The new of Venezuela's increasingly congress was pulled from his vehicle and briefly detained by police Sunday, a day after the US backed him assuming the presidency as a way out of the country's deepening crisis.

The confusing incident, which drew swift international condemnation, is bound to ramp up tensions between the opposition and government following Nicolas Maduro's swearing in for a controversial second term this month.

A video circulating on purports to show the moment in which is intercepted on his way to an anti-government town hall meeting in the port city of

In the video shot on a cellphone by a motorist stuck in traffic, several men in ski masks and carrying assault weapons are seen struggling to shut the door on someone being pushed into an SUV before racing down a highway.

While it was not possible to identify Guaido in the 33-second video, his wife, Fabiana Rosales, said on that he had been detained by a commando unit of the feared SEBIN intelligence police. As of his detention spread, he was then released.

"We are going to fulfill our constitutional duties," Guaido said a group of cheering supporters at the rally. "We are survivors not victims, and we are going to move this country forward."

Adding to the confusion, the government tried to shift the blame to Guaido's allies, with saying that the "media show" had perhaps been orchestrated to provoke an international uproar.

Still, he acknowledged that police officers had partook in the arrest and said they would be disciplined.

"We want to inform the people of that the officials who took that upon themselves are being dismissed," Rodriguez said on state TV.

U.S. called on Venezuela's security forces to uphold its citizens' constitutional rights, singling out

"The U.S. and the are watching," Pompeo tweeted.

A coalition of 13 Latin American countries and condemned Guaido's "arbitrary" detention targeting the of the

In a statement, the Lima Group rejected any "pressure or coercion that prevents the full and normal exercise of their powers as an organ constitutionally and legitimately elected in "

At the rally Sunday after the incident, Guaido told that the SEBIN agents informed him they were carrying out orders from above when they arrested him.

"They tried to put me in handcuffs," he told the crowd of a few hundred waving Venezuelan flags. "But I didn't let them because I'm of the "

Guaido has been leading an increasingly tense standoff with Maduro seeking to oust the socialist from power, winning the support of some powerful international allies like U.S. Mike Pompeo, who spoke to him by phone shortly after the 35-year-old assumed the presidency of the opposition-controlled

At a rally Friday he said he was prepared to take over as Venezuela's interim and call for new elections, a move the U.S. and regional governments support.

But for such a strategy to succeed, he said Venezuelans must take to the streets to express their discontent with Maduro's handling of what was once Latin America's wealthiest nation. To that end, he called for nationwide demonstrations Jan. 23 to coincide with

Guaido said that comments by Rodriquez, the government's spokesman, reveal a of command between Maduro and Venezuela's armed services.

"If they recognize that they no longer control the state's security agencies, then they have a very serious problem," Guaido said. "Maduro no longer controls the armed forces.

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

First Published: Mon, January 14 2019. 03:40 IST