Venezuela detains opposition legislator on charges of terrorism
CARACAS - Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami confirmed Wednesday that opposition assembly member representing the Popular Will Party (Voluntad Popular), Gilber Alexander Caro Alfonzo was arrested in connection with terrorist acts and paramilitary groups in the South American nation and its neighbor, Colombia.
The arrest comes after President Nicolás Maduro instituted the National Anti-Coup Command for Peace and Sovereignty of which El Assami heads.
“We want to inform that citizen Gilber Caro was detained for sowing terrorist acts in the streets of Venezuela. Popular Will is guilty of violence that they wish to incite across the country,” expressed El Assami from the vice-presidential headquarters in Caracas.
During his official address, El Assami presented images of the materials Venezuelan authorities say they confiscated from Caro’s vehicle including explosives (C-4), an automatic rifle with a scratched Venezuelan National Armed Forces (FANB) serial number, 20 cartridges as well as documents with maps outlining plans, routes and a hit-list full of opposition leaders’ names.
El Assami emphasized that the list would have been used with the objective of blaming the Bolivarian government for assassinations of opposition political leaders.
According to El Assami’s report, Caro was arrested after he gathered with three unidentified individuals in Táchira state January 8th. He subsequently crossed the Colombian-Venezuelan border into Cucutá.
Caro spent the night in Colombia and returned to Venezuela in the early morning. His migratory movement was not officially registered leaving or entering Venezuela which alterted authorities and inspired his arrest in Carabobo state en route from Táchira to Caracas, El Assami explained.
“This character has a criminal record that shows two convictions, one of them 15 years for drug trafficking… [today] we verify his connection to plans to cause violence in the country,” El Assami asserted, highlighting that Caro “will be punished to the full extent of the law.”
Venezuelan state media reports also highlight Caro’s direct connection to Lilian Tintori, wife of imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo López currently serving 14 years for inciting 2014 guarimba violence resulting in 43 dead and hundreds more wounded across the country.
Venezolana de Televisión (VTV) featured an exclusive audio clip featuring a phone conversation between Tintori and Caro which allegedly outlines plans to attack Miraflores presidential palace as a distraction with the objective of removing López from prison.
Stayci Mendoza, Venezuelan citizen and resident of Switzerland, was arrested along with Caro. Mendoza entered the country December 22nd 2016. Mendoza has campaigned throughout Europe garnering support for VP “with her connections to the international extreme right wing”, El Assami stated.
Opposition legislators came to Caro’s defense expressing their disagreement with the arrest and calling for political immunity.
“Among the legislators elected (by vote) is our friend Gilber Caro, who they arrested yesterday (Wednesday), a prisoner, violating the most sacred principle that we have which is parliamentary immunity, in which the Venezuelan Constitution does not make any kind of distinction: legislators and their replacements enjoy immunity from the very moment of their proclamation,” National Assembly president Julio Borges stated.
However, the arrest comes as the Venezuelan Supreme Court reissued its declaration naming the legislative branch currently occupied by an opposition majority null and void. The branch’s inability to rectify problems presented by the Supreme Court since September 2016 through January 5th 2017 informed the judicial power’s decision.
“In the coming hours, we will act according to Venezuelan laws. Only through justice can there be peace,” affirmed El Assami.