A recent uptick in politically motivated arrests of politicians has hit Venezuela. The Venezuelan government is targeting prominent opposition leaders throughout the country, using trumped-up, baseless charges in an effort to break the back of the democratic opposition and quell the countrywide protests.
Opposition leaders in Venezuela have long been the target of the socialist authoritarian government. Past incidents include nationalization of property and the beating of opposition legislators while in session at the national assembly. The recent rise in arrests calls into question the intent of the Venezuelan government in peacefully resolving the current crisis.
Leopoldo Lopez was the first prominent opposition leader to be arrested by the Venezuelan government for his role in supporting the protesters. He was arrested over a month ago on groundless charges, including murder and terrorism. While the charges have been reduced, he still faces 10 years in prison and remains incarcerated in a military facility.
Congresswoman Maria Corina Machado has also become a target of the Maduro regime. In an effort to silence her as well, national assembly chief Diosdado Cabello intends to take away her congressional immunity in order to charge her with treason.
Not stopping there, the Venezuelan government has expanded its witch hunt to mayors as well. Opposition leader Daniel Ceballos, mayor of the city of San Cristobal, was arrested on Wednesday for his alleged role in inciting “civil rebellion.” Just hours later, the Venezuelan supreme court ordered the arrest and incarceration of San Diego mayor Enzo Scarano for failing to contain the demonstrations.
While the Venezuelan government seems unable to crack down on murderers, burglars, and drug traffickers, it remains incredibly efficient in the arrest and prosecution of anyone who dares oppose Nicolas Maduro’s repressive regime.
These recent arrests diminish the likelihood of any serious negotiations between opposition leaders and the Maduro regime. The Obama Administration should realize that turning a blind eye to the Venezuelan crisis and relying on Maduro to resolve the situation will never lead to a peaceful and meaningful resolution.
Andres Martinez-Fernandez is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.