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Venezuelan regime crackdown snares human rights leader San Miguel

Prominent Venezuelan human rights activist Rocio San Miguel, shown here in Caracas in September of 2011, who also leads a private organization focused on national security and defense issues, was arrested by Venezuelan regime officials on Friday.
Fernando Llano
/
AP
Prominent Venezuelan human rights activist Rocio San Miguel, shown here in Caracas in September of 2011, who also leads a private organization focused on national security and defense issues, was arrested by Venezuelan regime officials on Friday.

Venezuela’s authoritarian socialist regime is cracking down again, and severely, on its opposition. It has now jailed one of the country’s most respected human rights activists, accusing her of taking part in a presidential assassination plot.

Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced on social media on Sunday that Rocío San Miguel was detained on Friday at Caracas’ international airport. He said San Miguel is charged with a purported conspiracy to assassinate President Nicolás Maduro which the regime calls "Brazalete Blanco," or White Bracelet.

Her whereabouts were still unknown as of Monday afternoon.

Per usual in Venezuela these days, Saab's arrest announcement offered no evidence of San Miguel's alleged involvement in such a plot — or that such a plot, for which other opposition figures have been arrested recently, even existed or exists.

Regime critics say San Miguel is being jailed because she has also spent years watchdogging the corruption and abuses of Venezuela’s military and security services via her NGO, Venezuelan Citizen Control.

"Anyone who knows Rocío San Miguel's history, a prominent human rights defender and a firm believer in the peaceful and negotiated path, knows that these accusations have no foundation," Phil Gunson, a senior Venezuelan analyst for the nonprofit International Crisis Group, said Sunday on X (formerly Twitter).

READ MORE: Maduro makes another bizarre move — accuses Duque of Saab murder plot

San Miguel’s arrest is just the Maduro regime’s latest attack on its opponents in recent weeks.

Maduro is lashing out largely because the U.S. is re-imposing economic sanctions against him — and threatening to re-impose heavier ones in April — because he refuses to allow popular opposition leader María Corina Machado to challenge him in this year’s presidential election, despite signing an agreement to hold a free and fair vote that includes the opposition's chosen candidate.

Machado won last fall's opposition primary race by a landslide — and polls indicate she would defeat Maduro in the general contest.

To deflect attention from his dictatorial rule — and from Venezuela's humanitarian catastrophe, the worst in modern South American history, which has forced almost a quarter of the population to flee the country in recent years — Maduro is also rattling sabers at neighboring Guyana. As part of his insistence that more than two-thirds of that nation's territory actually belongs to Venezuela, he's begun deploying his military to the Venezuela-Guyana border.

Venezuelan security experts say they believe San Miguel may have been arrested to blunt her and her NGO's scrutiny of those operations.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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