WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is responsible for the health and safety of Venezuela’s opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, who were both taken back to prison in the wee hours of the day.
“The United States condemns the actions of the Maduro dictatorship. Mr. Lopez and Mr. Ledezma are political prisoners being held illegally by the regime,” Trump said in a statement, personally referring to Maduro’s government for the first time as a “dictatorship,” after his administration had already done so Monday.
“The United States holds Maduro – who publicly announced just hours earlier that he would move against his political opposition – personally responsible for the health and safety of Mr. Lopez, Mr. Ledezma, and any others seized. We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners,” Trump added.
Lopez and Ledezma, who had been placed under house arrest for several weeks, were taken back to prison early Tuesday for allegedly plotting “an escape plan,” according to the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ).
The arrests came after Washington ordered on Monday sanctions against Maduro, who it described as “dictator” for the first time, with the freezing of assets that he may have under US jurisdiction and the ban on financial transactions.
Washington’s decision came in response to Sunday’s election of National Constituent Assembly representatives, which it called a “farce.”
Despite labeling Maduro a “dictator,” the US still considers the Maduro government legitimate and would not recognize a possible parallel executive body formed by the opposition, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Michael Fitzpatrick told EFE on Tuesday.