Approximately one hour ago, opposition figure and Mayor of Metropolitan Caracas Antonio Ledezma tweeted the following:

Various government police officers are trying to raid my office at this moment at the Exa Tower in El Rosal.

Ledezma was arrested shortly thereafter by officers from the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN). Mitzy Capriles de Ledezma, Antonio’s wife, said that her husband was taken away by hooded officers, and that they fired into the air several times to disperse the crowd that had gathered around the area.

At the moment, it is not known why Ledezma was arrested or where he is, although he would presumably have been taken to one of the SEBIN officers in Caracas.

Below, some pictures from the scene:

Security cameras inside the Exa Tower captured the moment security officers came for Ledezma:

The picture below shows Ledezma in the middle of the frame (not wearing a helmet, with grey hair) surrounded by security officers:

Opposition figure Maria Corina Machado said a short while ago that the officers did not have a warrant to either enter Ledezma’s office or arrest Ledezma. She is currently at the gates of the SEBIN headquarters attempting to find out if Ledezma is being held there.

Below, a picture of Maria Corina Machado at the the SEBIN offices near Plaza Venezuela:

Lopez Interviewed by CNN

Leopoldo Lopez gave an interview to CNN en Español anchor Fernando del Rincon yesterday. Lopez spoke on the phone from inside the Ramo Verde prison near Caracas in which he has been held for the past year, and told del Rincon that he would probably face repercussions from prison staff for agreeing to do the interview.

Speaking on his time so far in Ramo Verde, Lopez said:

There have been difficult times, torture, moments in which we’ve been humiliated like the time when they threw human excrement at us through the windows. We’ve been submitted not only to isolation, but also to violent searches. They’ve come in the overnight hours to rob us (…) These are some of the situations that we’ve had to face here, but I’m sure that (…) these situations have only made us stronger. They’ve only allowed us to face difficulties and overcome them with courage.

Directing his words to the government, Lopez called PSUV policies “a failure”, and called on Maduro to resign:

To those who are currently running Venezuela, I would say that they have to understand that their proposals have failed. They’ve brought Venezuela to a state of generalized collapse. The opportunity Venezuelans gave them through the years, specially since Maduro’s arrival, has proven to be  a failure in every respect.
I have no doubt that the best thing that Maduro could do for every Venezuelan is to resign right now. He should resign and allow every Venezuelan the possibility of electing a new National Assembly, and to renew every public power as the Constitution allows.

Lopez likened his stay in prison to the plight of Venezuelans around the country, who struggle daily with insecurity, inflation and scarcity. Lopez said:

Being in prison is certainly difficult, but we have to believe that we can be free again. Just as I am sure that I my time in prison will pass, I am sure that the time each Venezuelan lives in prison will also pass.

The interview ended abruptly after del Rincon asked Lopez if the prison authorities knew that he was speaking to CNN, to which Lopez replied:

Leopoldo Lopez: No, they don’t know we’re talking. But they obviously know I’m talking [to someone]. Intelligence officers are walking in now with a video recorder. We’re constantly persecuted in here. We’re being constantly followed by officers from the Direccion de Inteligencia Militar (Military Intelligence Directorate) and they even record our private conversations, and there’s always an officer trying to stop us from communicating.
Fernando del Rincon: Are they recording you right now? Are you afraid?
Leopoldo Lopez: No — [garbled yelling]

The entire interview, in Spanish, can be seen here. Fast forward to 49:19 to hear the end of the call.

Del Rincon then explained that a source inside the prison told him that the phone Lopez was speaking on was ripped off the wall by a guard, which caused the call to be cut off.

Ramo Verde Sees Tumultuous Day

A riot nearly broke out inside the Ramo Verde prison today as inmates reportedly tried to fight prison authorities after some of their visiting family members were mistreated.

The news was provided by Adolfo Baudel, who was visiting his father, a retired general imprisoned at Ramo Verde. Baudel said that inmates became enraged after prison guards stole a baby’s diaper from a visiting family member. Baudel said that when news of the theft spread, inmates began banging on their cell bars, and that he subsequently heard gun fire.

Later on in the day, Lilian Tintori tweeted that prison guards were “attempting to kidnap Leopoldo to remove him from the prison”.

It is unclear if the two events are related, or if the situation inside the Ramo Verde prison is now under control.

Gov’t Takes Over Dia a Dia

A week after accusing the convenience store chain Dia a Dia of hoarding and contributing to the scarcity crisis in the country, the government announced today that PDVAL – a state-run distribution and supply network – will “temporarily administer” daily operations at Dia a Dia. The announcement was made through the Gaceta Oficial No. 40,603 dated February 18.

The announcement means that Dia a Dia has ceased to be a private company, and now belongs to the Venezuelan state.

Gov’t Denies Spanish Expropriation Story

The Venezuelan government officially responded to allegations by Spanish companies operating in Venezuela that they were threatened with expropriation if they did not pressure Spanish media to soften their stance on Venezuela.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin, Vice-Minister of Foreign Relations for Europe, Calixto Ortega, said that while the meeting between Venezuelan officials and Spanish business leaders did take place last week, its purpose was to inform them of the “vicious media campaign” by Spanish outlets against Venezuela. He called the allegations that the companies were threatened with expropriation as “absolutely false”.

Ortega explained:

No one who took part in that meeting can seriously claim that there was any kind of threat made… It was an absolutely cordial meeting.

Ortega says that ten minutes after the meeting ended, he received a call from the Spanish Ambassador in Venezuela, Antonio Perez Hernandez, where Ortega expressed the Venezuelan government’s desire to “maintain cordial relations” with Spain.

During the meeting, Ortega says that the Spanish business leaders were presented with folders full of clippings from newspapers in Spain as proof that the Spanish media was critical against Venezuela, although the exact reasons why the government felt the need to present the business leaders with this information is not clear.

Orthodontics Program Forced to Shut Down

The graduate orthodontics program at the Universidad Central de Venezuela has been forced to shut its door temporarily, as it has run out of surgical equipment with which to work. According Yolanda Osorio, the Dean of the Faculty of Orthodontics, the program is having difficulty finding 280 basic materials needed to conduct dental surgery, and is currently only accepting the most severe emergency cases.

Osorio also said that the program is missing even the most basic necessities: gloves, syringes, cotton and resins.

The material scarcity is also affecting other universities, including the Universidad Santa Maria, also in Caracas.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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