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Opposition mayor arrested in Venezuela

Mayor of San Cristobal, city hardest hit by anti-government protests, arrested for "civil rebellion".

Last updated: 20 Mar 2014 06:42
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Venezuelan intelligence agents have arrested the opposition mayor of San Cristobal for "civil rebellion," accusing him of stoking violence in the city hit harder than anywhere by more than a month of unrest.

Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres, who also heads the national intelligence service Sebin, told state TV that Sebin agents detained Daniel Ceballos while acting on an order from a court in western Tachira state.

"This is an act of justice for a mayor who not only failed to meet his obligations under the law, but also facilitated and supported all the irrational violence in this city," he said.

"In the coming hours he will be presented before the corresponding tribunals to begin the judgment process."

A man identifying himself as an aide to the mayor said via his Twitter account, @Daniel_Ceballos, that he was arrested in Caracas. According to a post on his Facebook page earlier, Ceballos was in the capital for a meeting of opposition mayors.

San Cristobal, home to some 250,000 people in Tachira near the Colombian border, has been the focus of the most sustained fights between demonstrators barricading roads, pro-government radicals, and the security forces, Reuters news agency reported.

Torres said a member of the National Guard was shot dead in the city on Wednesday during what he called "vandalistic acts" by protesters targeting a national armed forces university.

Daily rallies

Earlier, prosecutors said a Caracas municipal worker was killed by multiple gunshots late on Tuesday as he and others took down a street barrier set up by opposition demonstrators.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the opposition mayors of four municipalities, including San Cristobal, to remove street barricades rigged up by protesters.

At least 31 people have died since February 12 when three people were shot dead in clashes after an opposition rally in Caracas.

The protesters are demanding socialist President Nicolas Maduro resign, while he says his foes want to create chaos and a coup.

Students said they planned to march in the capital on Thursday to call for Ceballos' release, in what will be the latest of daily rallies by both sides around the politically polarised country.

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