Venezuela arrests 15 military officials over vote: rights group
May 24 2018 06:14 PM
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Reuters/Caracas

Venezuela arrested at least 15 military officials around the time of its widely criticized weekend presidential election, according to a local rights group, adding to scores already detained on accusations of conspiring or deserting.

The local Penal Forum group said late on Wednesday it had tracked 15 officials rounded up ‘for political reasons’ since three days before Sunday's vote in which socialist President Nicolas Maduro won re-election.

The Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The rights group did not give any more details of the detentions or the reasons behind them, but denounced the existence of 373 ‘political prisoners’ in total in Venezuela.

The Maduro government denies that term, saying all politicians and members of the security forces in detention are there on legitimate criminal charges, including coup-plotting.

Internal military documents show arrests have been rising sharply within the armed forces, where there is discontent within the ranks, especially at food shortages and dwindling salaries due to Venezuela's crushing economic crisis.

Documents reviewed by Reuters showed the number of new detentions of soldiers for treason, rebellion and desertion rose to 172 in the first four months of 2018, up three-and-a-half times from the same period of 2017.

Sunday's vote was slammed by Maduro's foes and a raft of foreign nations as a farce that does not meet democratic norms.

Maduro, a 55-year-old former bus driver who succeeded Hugo Chavez in 2013, says he is the victim of a US-led conspiracy to topple him and take over Venezuela's oil reserves.



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