US National Security Adviser John Bolton has threatened to respond to the alleged arrrest of Western-backed Venezuela's self-proclaimed "interim leader" Juan Guaido's aide, calling the move by Caracas a "big mistake."
Maduro has made another big mistake. The illegitimate arrest of Roberto Marrero, Interim President Juan Guaidó’s aide, will not go unanswered. He should be released immediately and his safety guaranteed.— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) March 21, 2019
Earlier in the day, an informed source in the Venezuelan police in Caracas told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that the Venezuelan intelligence service had detained two associates of the country's opposition leader Juan Guaido.
While the information has yet to be officially confirmed by Caracas, it has first appeared on sites linked to the Venezuelan opposition led by Juan Guaido, who had earlier proclaimed himself interim president of Venezuela, with the US swiftly expressing its support for the politician.
According to the unnamed source cited by RIA Novosti, one of the two detained Guaido associates had rifles and a grenade in possession.
"Early today morning, two of the closest associates of Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaido, Roberto Marrero and Sergio Vergara, were detained at their homes. The detention was carried out in the El Cafetal neighbourhood of the Baruta municipality. Two rifles and a grenade were found in Marrero's house," the source said.
The source said that Vergara had been released and Marrero remained in custody, while the reason for their alleged detention remains unknown.
According to a Sputnik correspondent, as of 8:30 a.m. local time (12:30 GMT), the situation in El Cafetal was stable, with no signs of increased police presence in the area.
Venezuela has been in a political crisis since 23 January, when Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaido declared himself to be the country's interim president, with the US, the EU and most Latin American states shortly recognising him the interim leader of the state. At the same time, Russia, China, Mexico, Turkey and other countries continue to recognize Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s only legitimate president who came to power after winning the May 2018 elections.
Maduro himself called Guaido a "puppet" of the United States and accused Washington of orchestrating a coup d’etat in Venezuela in order to force a change in government and claim the energy-rich country's resources. In response to the move made by Washington and its allies, Maduro also announced his decision to sever diplomatic ties and close Venezuela’s embassy and consulates in the United States.
On January 24, the United States recalled all "non-essential" diplomats and embassy personnel from Venezuela, citing security concerns. Last week, the United States withdrew its remaining diplomatic staff from Caracas.
Separately, Washington imposed sanctions on the Venezuelan government-run PVDSA energy giant and its US-based subsidiary Citgo in a move described by Caracas as an attempt to steal the country's resources.
Despite the travel ban issued by the Venezuelan Supreme Court due to the investigation, Guaido left the country in February and visited a number of Latin American states, as well as the Lima group meeting on the Venezuelan crisis. Because of the travel ban violation, an arrest warrant has recently been issued on Guaido.