National Assembly deputy (MUD) Gilber Caro was arrested early this morning by agents from the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN) [National Bolivarian Intelligence Service], the Maduro regime’s political police. El Nacional reports that Caro was stopped at a toll both in La Cabrera, Carabobo state when he was intercepted by “various” SEBIN vehicles.
The news broke through Juan Guaido, another National Assembly deputy. Guaido said that the SEBIN agents had been “cordial” to Caro during the arrest, but stressed that as a parliamentarian Caro enjoys immunity and cannot be charged or arrested for a crime unless he is first stripped of his immunity by the legislature.
Voluntad Popular (VP), the party to which Caro belongs, said that the SEBIN had taken him to its headquarters in Naguanagua, Carabobo state.
The arrest was confirmed by vice-president Tarek El Aissami, who is also the head of the newly-formed Anti-Coup Command, a security initiative that aims to protect the Maduro regime from alleged conspirators.
Guaido said that Caro had been arrested as part of the ongoing political persecution that opposition members face for their work against the Maduro regime. Last august, Yon Goiocechea, another Voluntad Popular politician, was also arrested by SEBIN agents who claimed to have found explosives in his vehicle.
As of the writing of this post (8:00 PM EST time) the national media has not yet reported on any charges Caro may be facing.
VP: SEBIN Planting Explosives, Rifles on Caro
VP national coordinator and National Assembly vice-president Freddy Guevara announced through his Twitter account that the SEBIN would attempt to plant either “rifles or explosives” on Caro in order to frame him as being part of some kind of anti-government plot in order to justify his arrest.
Guevara also said that Caro’s girlfriend was with him in his vehicle when he was arrested.
If Guevara’s allegations are true, it would not be the first time that the authorities have planted explosives and other weapons on opposition deputies.
El Aissami: Caro Had Weapons In His Possession
Vice-president Tarek El Aissami spoke on television about Caro’s arrest this evening, alleging that the National Assembly deputy was in procession of instruments of war that are usually only in the hands of the military, including at least one rifle with twenty rounds.
El Aissami also said that at the time that he was detained by SEBIN agents, Caro had with him maps as well as a “hit list” comprised of individuals marked for assassination. El Aissami also said that Caro had traveled to Colombia in recent days, and suggested that the trip had been carried out for nefarious purposes without providing any details.
While Caro has yet to be formally charged, El Aissami said that he was attempting to “conduct terrorist acts” in order to destabilize the country.
Maduro to Present “State of the Union” Address to Supreme Court, Not Congress
Each year in January, the President of Venezuela must give a memoria y cuenta [literally, “overview and account”] of the last year’s work by the executive office at the National Assembly. The practice is virtually identical to the State of the Union address that United States presidents give before Congress each year. The point of the address is to give the President of the Republic a chance to speak to the legislature on the state of affairs in the country, and also to lay out his plans for the year to come.
Today, National Assembly PSUV deputy Dario Vivas announced that Maduro would be breaking from protocol, and rather than giving his speech to the National Assembly, he would give it to the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ).
The move is not only unprecedented: it is also unconstitutional. Article 237 of the Constitution states (emphasis mine):
Article 237: Annually, within the first ten days following to installation of the National Assembly, in ordinary session, the President* of the Republic, shall present personally to the Assembly a message by which will render account of the political, economic, social and administrative aspects of its administration during the past year. Section Three: Executive Vice- President*
Ever since the opposition regained control of the National Assembly in the 2015 parliamentary elections, the Maduro regime has worked to undermine the institution. In September of last year, the TSJ issued a ruling declaring any act by the Assembly to be unconstitutional, and Maduro has personally made numerous statements to the media threatening to dissolve parliament, most recently last week.
Nearly Four Months On, CNE Mum on Postponed Elections
On October 18 of last year, the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) announced that the regional elections scheduled to take place at the end of 2016 had been postponed until the first half of 2017.
Constitutional term limits mandated that elections for the offices of state governors and mayors had to have taken place last year. The head of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, did not provide an explanation for the postponement of the elections.
Nearly four months after the CNE’s announcement, the body in charge of organizing and holding elections in the country has yet to provide an update on the state of the elections.
El Impulso Receives Paper, Resumes Print Version
El Impulso, a large regional newspaper out of Lara state, will resume its print edition tomorrow after it received 30 reams of newsprint.
The newspaper, which is critical of the Maduro regime, was forced to stop its print edition on January 1 after the government failed to exchange the foreign currency the paper needed to import newsprint.
In a message posted on its website today, El Impulso said:
We expect that this new shipment will provide for at least three weeks of circulation.
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