Venezuela crisis: Juan Guaidó's chief of staff detained

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Venezuelan intelligence agents have detained a senior aide to opposition leader Juan Guaidó after a raid on his Caracas home, say legislators.

Mr Guaidó has demanded the immediate release of his chief of staff Roberto Marrero, whose whereabouts are unknown.

The nearby home of opposition legislator Sergio Vergara was also raided. He was not detained.

The operation could signal a crackdown on the opposition by embattled President Nicolás Maduro.

Mr Guaidó, head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim leader on 23 January, saying Mr Maduro’s re-election last May was illegitimate.

On Twitter, he said Mr Marrero had been “kidnapped” and that “two rifles and a grenade had been planted” at his aide’s home during the raid at about 02:00 local time (06:00 GMT).

Personal belongings are seen on the floor at the residence of Roberto Marrero
Image captionPersonal belongings are seen on the floor at Mr Marrero’s residence

Mr Vergara, who is Mr Marrero’s neighbour, said more than 40 heavily armed officers from intelligence agency Sebin took part in the raids on the two apartments. Mr Vergara added that his driver had also been detained.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry has not commented.

What’s the background?

The raids come at a moment of high tension in the country, with Mr Guaidó and Mr Maduro each claiming to be the constitutional president of Venezuela.

Shortly after Mr Guaidó declared himself interim leader, his assets were frozen and the Supreme Court, dominated by government loyalists, placed a travel ban on him.

Media captionJuan Guaidó speaking to the BBC last week: “We want genuinely free elections”

But the 35-year-old opposition leader defied that ban last month when he toured Latin American countries to garner support and had been widely expected to be arrested upon his return.

Mr Guaidó has continued to call for President Maduro to step aside and urged the security forces, which have mainly been loyal to the government, to switch sides.

Last week, the chief prosecutor said it had asked the Supreme Court to investigate Mr Guaidó for allegedly sabotaging the country’s electrical system in the wake of this month’s power cuts.

Mr Guaidó has been recognised as leader by more than 50 countries, including most in Latin America and the US. Mr Maduro, who still has the support of China and Russia, accuses the opposition of being part of a US-orchestrated coup.

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