Venezuelan Opposition Leader Arrested After Fleeing Charges

The opposition leader is facing 11 charges, including corruption, illicit gain and embezzlement of funds.  

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The leader of Venezuela’s Nuevo Tiempo party, Manuel Rosales, was arrested by Venezuelan authorities Thursday afternoon, after landing in Zulia state’s Maracaibo airport from Peru, where he had been granted asylum in 2009.

“This citizen decided to hand himself over to the Venezuelan justice in order to face trial...” said Venezuela's Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace

Rosales was arrested for withdrawing from an investigation into his conduct in office before the preliminary hearing.

Rosales, the governor of Zulia state from 2000-2008, is facing 11 charges — including corruption, illicit gain and embezzlement of funds allocated by the executive — committed during his stints as governor and mayor (1996-99).

The charges came as the result of an investigation presented by the Government Accountability Office on Dec. 11, 2008.  He is also accused of supporting a Colombian paramilitary group while governor, which had attempted to enter to Venezuela via the Rio de Oro in his state. 

The allegations are based on a testimony given by a paramilitary fighter after he was arrested by Venezuelan security forces. 

The leader of the governing PSUV socialist party, Egda Vilchez, said that Rosales' return had nothing to do with courage, but rather to pay his alleged U.S., European and Venezuelan funders.

The attorney general went further, saying his return is part of a bigger plan to foment violence prior to December’s parliamentary elections: “His main assignment is to foment chaos and violence not only in Maracaibo, but also other cities of the country, aiming at the suspension of December's elections. They know they already lost them.”