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Opposition activists arrested again in Venezuela

Four months before the election in Venezuela, the government has increased its reprisals: two more opposition figures were arrested for alleged conspiracy. The UN had previously sharply criticized the authorities' actions.

Two more close associates of opposition leader María Corina Machado have been arrested in authoritarian Venezuela. In addition, arrest warrants were issued against seven other people from their team, as Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced. Among them is Machado's campaign manager Magalli Meda.

They are accused of conspiring to destabilize the country, said Saab. A total of seven leading government opponents have been imprisoned since the end of January.

Hours earlier, the UN mission for Venezuela said the country was experiencing a reactivation of the “most violent form of repression” by the authorities ahead of the July 28 elections. The government in Caracas rejected the allegations. The UN Human Rights Commissioner called on Venezuela to release all those arbitrarily detained.

Criticism: “Arbitrary” arrests

The two arrested are Henry Alviarez, national coordinator of Machado's Vente Venezuela (VV) party, and political secretary Dignora Hernández. Machado condemned the arrests and said they were based on lies.

“The regime wants to close the path to change, the path to freedom, because they know they are defeated because they have no way of winning an election against us. This is a sign of great weakness,” she said. “They know they lost.” Machado accused the authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro of “brutal repression”.

Most recently, a regional manager from Machado's campaign team was arrested on terrorism charges. According to Machado, there are currently 264 political prisoners in Venezuela. The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, criticized the new arrests as “arbitrary” and called for an end to the persecution of opposition figures.

Ban on holding office for opposition members

Machado was chosen by a large majority as the opposition candidate for the presidential election in internal primaries in October. However, she was banned from holding public office for 15 years due to alleged irregularities during her time as a member of parliament. At the end of January, the Supreme Court confirmed the decision. The 56-year-old still wants to challenge Maduro, who has ruled since 2013, in the election.

International sanctions apply against Venezuela due to numerous human rights violations. The security forces are taking tough action against government opponents. In addition to Machado, opposition members Henrique Capriles and Freddy Superlano are also banned from holding office. Human rights activists are persecuted or imprisoned. About a month ago, the socialist government expelled representatives of the United Nations from the country.

Venezuela has been in a serious political and economic crisis for years. The economy of the once prosperous country with rich oil reserves is suffering from mismanagement, corruption and sanctions. According to the UN, more than seven million people have left Venezuela in recent years because of poverty and violence.

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