Venezuela’s Maduro tightens pressure on opposition

Juan Guaido right and Edgar Zambranoleave the congress in Caracas

The United States says Russia-backed Maduro was elected illegitimately last year and that Guaido should be allowed to lead Venezuelans to free elections after years of turmoil.

"If the Americans were to propose a military intervention I would probably accept it", he said in an interview with Italian daily newspaper La Stampa.

The vice president of Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly was arrested by intelligence agents Wednesday night in Caracas.

"If we can talk about a coup d'etat in Venezuela, here it is: the dismantling of the national parliament", Guaido told a news conference.

The US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Thursday (local time) called Venezuelan National Assembly's Vice President's detainment as an illegal act, calling for his immediate release.

Opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez entered the home of the Spanish ambassador last week, after he joined Guaido in the failed attempt to get the military to topple Maduro. Maduro decried the events as an attempted coup.

The three lawmakers - named as Freddy Superlano, Sergio Vergara and Juan Andres Mejia - have been accused of high treason and conspiracy.

Zambrano said on Twitter around 6:40 p.m. SEBIN agents had surrounded his vehicle outside the headquarters of his Democratic Action party in Caracas' La Florida district.

Soon after the announcement, the Constituent Assembly - which effectively acts as a regime rubber stamp - stripped the seven of their parliamentary immunity.

'We were surprised by the SEBIN, and after refusing to let us leave our vehicle, they used a tow truck to forcibly transfer us directly to the (SEBIN headquarters) Helicoide, ' he said.

Maduro has not tried to arrest Guaido, who declared himself interim president of Venezuela in January.

"He was captured by the Central Intelligence Agency a year ago and was working as a traitor, mole and infiltrator", Maduro said of Figuera, whose defection to the opposition saw him rewarded earlier this week by the United States, which removed him from its sanctions list.

Guaido alleges that the government is chipping away at the National Assembly, the key Venezuelan institution calling for change in a country whose economic problems are so chronic that several million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the USA has a "full-scale set of options" to resolve the Venezuelan crisis, claiming that any actions that the U.S. takes in the country would be "lawful".

Maduro revealed that he was given head-ups by Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, Supreme Court chief Maikel Moreno and chief of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence, Iván Hernández Dala, about Figuera's "strange behavior" in run-up to the coup attempt.

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