CARACAS, Venezuela, Monday August 29, 2016 – Against the backdrop of rising political tension over a campaign to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro, Caracas sent an opposition leader who was under house arrest back to jail on Saturday and expelled a delegation of Ecuadoran lawmakers.
Daniel Ceballos, the former mayor of San Cristobal was snatched from his home at 3:00 am by members of the Venezuelan intelligence services, according to a Tweet from his wife, who also posted a video of their vehicles driving away.
Ceballos was loaded into an ambulance where he was shown an order transferring him to a prison in a distant state, his wife said.
Ceballos was arrested in March 2014, accused of inciting a nationwide wave of anti-government protests in which 43 people died.
Last year he was transferred to house arrest for medical reasons.
“The transfer of @Daniel_Ceballos to a prison constitutes one more link in a chain of human rights violations against prisoners of conscience,” his lawyer, Juan Carlos Gutierrez, charged on his Twitter account.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan foreign ministry confirmed the expulsion of a group of Ecuadoran lawmakers who had met with opposition leaders in Caracas. The Ecuadorans were accused of “destabilising” activities.
The group was reportedly intercepted on Friday by government intelligence personnel outside a military prison where Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is jailed.
“What we have lived through in #Venezuela was terrifying. We are now in #Ecuador,” Cynthia Viteri, a member of the Ecuadoran Congress, said on her Twitter account.
Viteri, who arrived in Venezuela on Thursday, had met with opposition leaders in the National Assembly and members of the main opposition coalition.
She and her group were waiting outside the Ramo Verde military prison to meet with Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, when they were picked up, she said.
The agents took their passports and told them they were being “expelled,” she said.
Ecuador’s foreign ministry said it was “concerned” about the incident and has asked Caracas for an explanation.
The Venezuelan foreign ministry charged that Viteri’s group had “flagrantly” interfered in the country’s internal affairs.
The Ecuadorans “engaged in proselytizing and destabilising activities in a sovereign country, (which is) expressly prohibited by Venezuelan migratory norms,” it said in a statement.
The incidents come amid escalating political tensions as the Venezuelan leader wards off pressure to hold a recall vote this year that could remove him from office.
The opposition has called for a massive march on Caracas September 1 to press its constitutionally sanctioned demand for the referendum.
Acute food shortages, inflation exceeding 700 percent, a deep recession and rampant crime have all fuelled calls for a change of government.