- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2019

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said Thursday that government agents who work as intelligence officers for President Nicolas Maduro arrested his chief of staff, Robert Marrero, from his home in Caracas in the middle of the night early Thursday morning.

Mr. Guaido tweeted that the operation took place around 2 a.m. local time, and his team remains unaware of Mr. Marrero’s whereabouts.

The officers reportedly claimed that Mr. Marrero had two rifles and a grenade in his home, which he denied, according to Mr. Guaido.

Opposition legislator Sergio Vergara, who lives near Mr. Marrero, said his home was also raided and he was briefly detained. “This new outrage gives us the strength to move on,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Mr. Marrero’s detention and called for his immediate release. The Trump administration has joined an international coalition that recognizes Mr. Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader and demanded that Mr. Marudo step down.

“The United States condemns raids by Maduro’s security services and detention of Roberto Marrero, Chief of Staff to Interim President @jguaido. … We will hold accountable those involved,” Mr. Pompeo tweeted.

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Texas Rep. Mike McCaul, also condemned the detention.

“The international community is closely watching Maduro’s actions and will respond accordingly to any that threaten the safety of the opposition and Interim President Juan Guaido,” Mr. McCaul said in a statement.

The Trump administration has ramped up pressure on the Maduro regime in recent weeks by toughening sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run gold mine and key sectors of the Venezuelan economy, and revoking the visas of members of Mr. Maduro’s inner circle.

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