Venezuela: Gov’t Releases Opposition Leader, Guaido Ratified as Parliament Head

Edgar Zambrano was a high-profile participant in the opposition’s April 30 military putsch.


Philadelphia, September 18, 2019 ( – Venezuelan authorities have released a high-ranking opposition leader accused of treason.

Attorney General Tarek Saab announced the release of National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano Tuesday evening, which was ordered by a judge following negotiations between opposition factions and the Maduro government.

The Democratic Action party leader was arrested in May after playing a prominent role in the failed April 30 military putsch that saw opposition militants and several dozen soldiers attempt to seize the General Francisco de Miranda Airbase in east Caracas.

On Monday, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez unveiled a broad-ranging agreement with four smaller opposition parties, which included steps toward freeing “arrested citizens” accused of anti-government offenses.

Cambiemos party leader Timoteo Zambrano, who bears no relation to Edgar Zambrano, led a group of opposition leaders to oversee the National Assembly vice president’s release from Fort Tiuna military base on Tuesday evening.

However, self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido, denied that the small opposition parties’ played a role in securing Zambrano’s release.

Taking to Twitter, he claimed the release was the product of “international and citizen pressure,” as well as a report by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet calling for the freeing of “political prisoners.”

Guaido and the major opposition parties have rejected the preliminary agreement reached between the government and a sector of the opposition, ruling out future talks with President Nicolas Maduro.

For his part, National Assembly Vice President Zambrano has indicated that he will be meeting with the four dissident opposition parties in the coming days. As a condition of his court-ordered release, he is barred from leaving the country and is obligated to report to a judge every 30 days. Zambrano is still facing criminal charges of treason, conspiracy, civil rebellion, usurpation of responsibilities, among others.

Zambrano’s release came hours after Guaido was ratified by the National Assembly as the body’s president until “the end of the usurpation” during the aTuesday legislative session.

Opposition parties had made a pact after winning the National Assembly majority in December 2015 whereby the presidency would rotate annually over the five-year term. After Henry Ramos Allup (Democratic Action), Julio Borges (First Justice), Omar Barboza (A New Time) held the position in 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively, the responsibility fell to Guaido on behalf of his Popular Will Party. The agreement foresaw a new National Assembly president being chosen among minority opposition parties for 2020.

The opposition-controlled legislative body also ratified Guaido as “interim president,” which he proclaimed himself in January and has since led several unsuccessful attempts to oust the Maduro government.The opposition leader had previously vowed that the government would be removed before the end of 2019.

The current term of the National Assembly, which has been in contempt of court since 2016, ends in December 2020. Elections are due to take place sometime in 2020, with government officials warning they could be set as early as January.

Monday’s agreement between the government and some opposition parties also contained a provision for the return of the pro-government bloc to the National Assembly. Governing PSUV legislators did not, however, take their seats during Tuesday’s session.

On Wednesday, the preliminary agreement received the backing of another small opposition party. Pentecostal preacher Javier Bertucci’s Esperanza por el Cambio endorsed the negotiations, calling for dialogue “without arrogance.”

“This should be an open invitation to all businesspeople, unions, workers, and campesinos, We must leave aside the violent and aggressive discourse on all sides. We cannot wait for the US to lift the sanctions. We must look for solutions,” he stated.

Bertucci won 10 percent of the vote in last year’s presidential elections, which were boycotted by the main opposition parties.

Edited and with additional reporting by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.