Venezuela: Mayor of Caracas arrested

(AGI) Caracas, Feb 20 - Protests have broken out in Venezuelafollowing the arrest of the Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma,accused of plotting a coup d'etat in collaboration with theUnited States. The latest move by President Nicolas Maduro iscertain to spark heated debates and fuel concerns forVenezuela's political prospects, with Hugo Chavez's successorseeking to compensate for his meagre charisma with an iron fistagainst the opposition. Police arrested the 59-year-old mayorwith a spectacular raid, complete with gunshots in the air andbreaking down of doors. The arrest comes a year after initialopposition demonstrations

(AGI) Caracas, Feb 20 - Protests have broken out in Venezuelafollowing the arrest of the Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma,accused of plotting a coup d'etat in collaboration with theUnited States. The latest move by President Nicolas Maduro iscertain to spark heated debates and fuel concerns forVenezuela's political prospects, with Hugo Chavez's successorseeking to compensate for his meagre charisma with an iron fistagainst the opposition. Police arrested the 59-year-old mayorwith a spectacular raid, complete with gunshots in the air andbreaking down of doors. The arrest comes a year after initialopposition demonstrations demanding Maduro's resignation, whichled to clashes and the death of 43 people, as well as thearrest of the president's rival, Leopoldo Lopez. With Lopez injail, Ledezma became heir to the anti-Chavez and anti-Madurolegacy. "He's fine and he'll be able to prove that he has noconnection to any plots," Ledezma's lawyer Omar Estacio stated.Just hours before the arrest, referring back to a perceivedthreat which he denounced in 2014, Maduro declared that "theircoup d'etat has failed." The evidence against Ledezma, whosepolitical fault lies in forming an alliance with theopposition's more radical fringes, is rather weak: a documentadvocating a political transition, signed by the Caracas mayor,has been interpreted by the government as the road map for acoup. Maduro's actions, said Ramon Muchado, an oppositionistfellow of Ledezma's, are aimed at "radicalising the debatewhile distracting the country from economic issues", such asits recession. The U.S., where another round of sanctionsagainst top Venezuelan officials was recently approved, is"deeply concerned by what appears to be escalation ofintimidation of opponents by the government of Venezuelarounding up opposition", said Assistant Secretary of StateRoberta Jacobson. "The only way to solve the problems ofVenezuela is through real dialogue among Venezuelans - notattempting to silence critics," she added. . .