Daniel Ceballos is accused of facilitating and supporting ‘irrational violence’ in western city of San Cristóbal
Venezuelan intelligence agents have arrested an opposition mayor accused of fomenting violent anti-government protest, while another was jailed for 10 months in the latest move against opponents of president Nicolás Maduro.
Daniel Ceballos, mayor of western city of San Cristóbal which has been a crucible of anti-government protest, was detained by the national intelligence service Sebin and accused of “civil rebellion”.
Interior minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres, who also heads Sebin, told state TV that Ceballos was detained by agents acting on an order from court in western Tachira state.
“This is an act of justice for a mayor who not only failed to meet his obligations under the law, but also facilitated and supported all the irrational violence in this city,” he said.
“In the coming hours he will be presented before the corresponding tribunals to begin the judgment process.”
Ceballos was arrested in Caracas, where he had been attending a meeting of opposition mayors, according to his aid Ronni Pavolini. “They took him out of the hotel in Caracas and took him to Helicoide [Sebin headquarters],” Pavolini told the Associated Press.
San Cristóbal, home to 250,000 people, has been the focus of the most sustained fights between hooded demonstrators barricading roads, armed pro-government radicals, and the security forces.
Torres said a member of the national guard was shot dead in the city on Wednesday during what he called “vandalistic acts” by protesters targeting a national armed forces university.
Later on Wednesday, the supreme court jailed another opposition mayor, Enzo Scarano of San Diego in central Carabobo state, for 10 months and 15 days for failing to comply with a previous order to take down barricades there.
In a statement, the court said Scarano would be stopped from exercising his functions as mayor.
“All our solidarity with Enzo Scarano before this indescribable aggression,” tweeted Ramón Muchacho, mayor of the staunchly pro-opposition Chacao municipality in eastern Caracas, which has been the site of near-nightly street clashes.
The mayors joined a high-profile opposition leader, Leopoldo López, who is being held on charges of arson and conspiracy, as leading government opponents jailed by Maduro’s administration since the unrest began last month.
The anti-government protests that have shaken Venezuela for more than a month began in early February with students in San Cristóbal, an opposition stronghold along the border with Colombia. Since then it has seen intense clashes between authorities and protesters frustrated by soaring inflation, rampant violent crime and shortages of basic items such as cooking oil and toilet paper.
Late on Wednesday, the federal prosecutor’s office said that, according to preliminary information, national guardsman Jhon Rafael Castillo Castillo, 23, was killed while breaking up protests near a local university in San Cristóbal. That would be the fifth national guardsmen killed during the protests.
Meanwhile, about 25km (15 miles) from San Cristóbal, national guardsmen firing plastic shotgun pellets and tear gas wounded at least 16 people in the town of Rubio as they cleared barricades that had been up for weeks, local officials said.
Rubio residents reported an intense effort by the national guard to clear protesters’ barricades that had sealed off neighbourhoods.
“The situation is terrible here,” Francisco Rincon, vice-president of Rubio municipal council, told the Associated Press. He said soldiers with rifles were on the street corners. He said he had counted 16 wounded, four of them by bullets.
Rincon, who is a member of the opposition Popular Will party, said their supporters had protested peacefully in the morning before being dispersed by tear gas and plastic buckshot by national guardsmen and pro-government civilians.
In Caracas, officials said a municipal worker was shot and killed while removing a street barricade in a middle-class neighbourhood. His death raised to 28 the official toll from more than a month’s worth of protests.
The federal prosecutor’s office said Francisco Alcides Madrid Rosendo, 32, was shot multiple times around 10pm on Tuesday while he and others were taking down a barricade in the Montalbán neighbourhood in Caracas’s western section.
The pro-government Caracas mayor, Jorge Rodríguez, through his Twitter account blamed unnamed “terrorists” for the killing, but provided no other details.
Venezuela’s national assembly on Tuesday voted to start a process to strip opposition politician María Corina Machado of her immunity so they could eventually bring charges against her for allegedly trying to destabilise the government.