Venezuela Interim President Juan Guaidó is demanding the release of his chief of staff after security forces arrested Roberto Marrero in a predawn raid and took him from his home in Caracas.
On Twitter, Guaidó said that security forces loyal to his rival, leader Nicolás Maduro, had planted rifles and a grenade at Marrero’s home.
“The raid began at approximately 2 a.m. and we don’t know where they took him,” Guaidó wrote. “He must be freed immediately.”
Sergio Vergara, an opposition congressman and a neighbor of Marrero’s, said his home had been raided moments before his colleague’s. Talking to reporters Thursday, Vergara said at least 15 men in ski masks had broken into his home and forced him to lie on the ground and arrested his driver Luis Aguilar.
Guaidó is considered Venezuela’s sole president by Washington and more than 50 other countries, and Thursday’s move on his inner circle raised alarms.
“The United States condemns raids by Maduro’s security services and detention of Roberto Marrero, Chief of Staff to Interim President [Guaidó],” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter. “We call for his immediate release. We will hold accountable those involved.”
Colombian President Ivaán Duque called the arrest “a vile and criminal persecution.”
The raid comes as Guaidó is trying to unseat Maduro in a high-stakes political battle. Ever since Guaidó announced he was assuming the presidency on Jan. 23, there have been fears that he would be arrested. Many believe that international scrutiny and the backing of almost every nation in the hemisphere have prevented Maduro from acting.
Maduro and his allies consider Guaidó a Washington puppet who is trying to seize the presidency without running for election. Maduro says last year’s elections — considered fraudulent by many — give him the right to rule through 2025.
Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.