Mérida, July 15, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Three men linked to self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaido were arrested on Friday while allegedly selling weapons stolen during the failed April 30 putsch.
According to Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez, Guaido’s personal bodyguards Erick Sanchez and Jason Parisi, as well as Sanchez’s cousin Eduardo Garcia, were detained while reportedly trying to sell five AK-103 rifles and ten ammunition packs for a sum of US $35,000.
The rifles’ serial numbers allegedly match those stolen from the Bolivarian National Guard’s post in Caracas’ Federal Legislative Palace, where the National Assembly sits.
Apart from catching the men in possession of the weapons, the government also claims to have accumulated “overwhelming” video and audio evidence against them since April.
“How many more articles of the Constitution do[es Guaido’s team] look to violate? Why are they always linked to violent deeds with arms? We need to play clean, don’t try to cover these operations up,” Rodriguez said during a press conference.
The arrests were announced as the government and opposition are engaged in Norway-mediated dialogue in Barbados, with both Maduro’s and Guaido’s delegations returning to the island on Monday for a new round of talks. No details of the discussions have been disclosed, with Associated Press reporting that the topic of elections is reportedly being left for last.
“These criminals are sitting at the dialogue table on one hand and continue violent acts on the other,” Rodriguez went on to state on Saturday.
National Assembly President Juan Guaido led a failed military uprising on April 30 which saw hardline opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez released from house arrest to join him and a handful of soldiers in the Altamira district of east Caracas. The putsch failed after it became apparent that the rest of the armed forces remained loyal to the Maduro government and a march led by Guaido was stopped from reaching the center of Caracas.
The opposition leader was quick to condemn the arrest of his bodyguards as he held rallies in the western state of Trujillo, claiming that it was a “set up” and that the weapons were “planted” on the men “like with [Guaido chief of staff] Roberto Marrero.”
Guaido’s Chief of Staff Marrero was arrested in March and is currently awaiting trial on charges of organising a terrorist cell and arms trafficking. Guaido and his Colombia-based team are also under investigation for embezzlement of international humanitarian “aid” funds, while his US representative Carlos Vecchio is likewise being investigated for fraud in CITGO, the US subsidiary of Venezuela’s state oil company.
Washington and Bogota both rejected the most recent arrest of those in Guaido’s inner circle, with both US National Security Advisor John Bolton and Colombia’s Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo describing the move as “arbitrary.”
Chavistas took to the streets on Saturday to deliver a message of peace, as well as reject the recent human rights report by United Nations High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet.
On Twitter, President Nicolas Maduro congratulated his supporters, writing that “The Venezuelan people mobilise to manifest their firm rejection of the lies and manipulation. For peace and truth!”
Caracas has claimed the UN report is “biased,” having ignored government projects to alleviate social problems and downplayed the impact on human rights of US-led sanctions.
The Venezuelan government also claims that Bachelet did not take into account a series of testimonies from families of victims of human rights abuses committed during the violent street protests known as “guarimbas,” which, included beheadings, fire bombings and live burnings, such as that of Orlando Figuera in 2017.
Last Wednesday, Venezuela’s attorney general's office announced that a man accused of involvement in Figuera’s death, Enzo Oliveros, had been arrested in Spain by Interpol on Caracas’ request. The Venezuelan government has issued an immediate request for his extradition.
[UPDATE] On Wednesday, Venezuela's attorney general confirmed the three arrests and the charges, claiming that one of the men had already confessed to the arms theft.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.