US, others condemn Venezuela's detention of opposition figures; Electoral official questions new assembly vote results
The international community condemned the detention of two political opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday, with the White House saying it holds Maduro personally responsible for their safety.
"The United States condemns the actions of the Maduro dictatorship" in taking Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma from their homes, US President Donald Trump said in a statement. "The United States holds Maduro ... personally responsible for the health and safety of Mr. Lopez, Mr. Ledezma, and any others seized."
Both men had been under house arrest for prior convictions. The house arrests were revoked, the Venezuelan Supreme Court said, because intelligence officials claimed they were planning to flee in the aftermath of Sunday's controversial elections.
The head of the Organization of American States (OAS) also blasted Maduro's recent actions, saying he was trying to "silence and subdue an entire people."
OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro called for new elections and accused Maduro's government of killings and repression.
"For the corrupt, the murderers and the torturers, the international community must reply with the greatest severity," he said in a news release.
The detentions come after members of a new constituent assembly were elected to rewrite the country's constitution, in a Sunday vote called for by Maduro and boycotted by the opposition. Virtually all of the new assembly’s members are supporters of the leftist leader.
Critics in Venezuela and outside the restive nation have called the vote a sham. A member of Venezuela's National Electoral Council voiced grave doubts about the accuracy of the official vote count in Sunday's election.
Luis Emilio Rondon is the only one of the five council members who has sided with the opposition in the past. He says measures used in previous elections to ensure an accurate vote count were not employed Sunday.
The council has said more than 8 million Venezuelans voted - a figure far higher than estimates by the opposition and by an independent exit poll.
Rondon said in a statement released Tuesday that the electoral council ordered far fewer election audits than in previous votes. He also said that the body did not use permanent ink for marking voters' fingers, a method to ensure no one votes twice.