2 Venezuelan opposition leaders jailed as crisis escalates

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Teams of heavily armed security agents seized two of Venezuela’s top opposition leaders from their homes in the middle of the night Tuesday, dragging one into the street in his pajamas as President Nicolas Maduro’s government defied U.S. sanctions and international condemnation of a plan to assume nearly unlimited powers.

Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were being held at the Ramo Verde military prison south of the capital, accused by the government-allied Supreme Court of violating the terms of their house arrest by plotting to escape and releasing video statements criticizing Maduro.

Both men’s allies denied the charges and vowed to continue to try to push the ruling party from power. But they gave little indication of how they planned to do that, and the capital was unusually quiet after months of sometimes violent protests. While the United States and some Latin American allies condemned the arrests, many other nations and international organizations were silent or limited themselves to expressions of concern.

Lopez’s supporters released a video he taped last week saying he expected to be imprisoned again soon, and calling on Venezuelans to be firm in resisting Maduro.

“If you are looking at this video now, it’s precisely because that occurred, because they came and they illegally imprisoned me again unjustly, a prisoner of consciousness, a prisoner for my ideas, a prisoner for wanting a better Venezuela,” the 46-year-old Lopez said.

He also said that his wife, Lilian Tintori, is pregnant, touching her belly and saying he has “one more reason to fight for Venezuela.” He called the pregnancy “the best news I’ve received in the last 3 1/2 years” — the time he spent behind bars before being released to house arrest last month. The couple had been allowed some…

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