Five additional members of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s team have been kidnapped, according to local reports on Monday – bringing the total to 10 who are now languishing behind bars.
A source in Caracas confirmed to Fox News that five officials were abducted over the past week, and a further five were taken by security last year. As of the most recent seizures, two were allegedly charged with marijuana possession at the National Police headquarters, known by its Spanish acronym FAES. Two more were taken this morning on unclear charges.
“Authorities said they were looking for COVID-19 cases and took them away,” the insider said. “That was the excuse, anyway.”
Of those kidnapped last year, at least one – Guaido’s Chief of Staff Robert Marroe, who was arrested last March – faces charges that include acts of terrorism.
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The National Police remains under the control of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, who for more than a year has not been recognized as the country’s legitimate leader by the United States and more than 100 other countries.
The seizures come just a week after the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed a searing criminal indictment against Maduro and several “co-conspirators,” accusing them of an array of narcotics and trafficking-related crimes, including efforts to smuggle drugs into the United States, and putting multimillion-dollar bounties beside their names.
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Despite the latest indictment, coupled with a laundry list of economic sanctions, Maduro has maintained his position at the helm in the capital Caracas, overseeing the struggling socialist regime and commanding the security forces.
The indictment of a functioning head of state was highly unusual and bound to ratchet up tensions between Washington and Caracas. However, the U.S. has long accused Maduro and his government of human rights abuses, torture, corruption, and paving the way for cartels, terrorist groups and traffickers to exploit the oil-swathed nation, once the wealthiest in Latin America.
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As it stands, Venezuela is considered to be one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.