Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro slammed Sunday an ongoing right-wing campaign to spark destabilization in the South American country, accusing the opposition of paying demonstrators to generate violence in protests against the government.
Maduro presented videos of opposition activists confessing that the Justice First party, headed by opposition leader Henrique Capriles and part of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable or MUD coalition, had handed out payments to young people in exchange for them to "burn Caracas."
Alejandro Sanchez was arrested Friday with his brother Jose during the violent protests in the capital city, the latest in a stream of demontrations that in recent weeks killed five and injured dozens amid looting and vandalism that affected at least 40 shops in Miranda state, neighboring Caracas.
Sanchez said that Justice First lawmakers Tomas Guanipa, Jose Guerra and Marialbert Barrios, together with the head of the organization in Caracas, Carmelo Zambrano, gave sums of money to ensure violence escalated.
Maduro vowed that he will not hestitate to put behind bars those who have been responsible for fomenting violence in country, home to heated political tensions that have run high for months and only continue to escalate.
"Don't think they have an untouchable immunity, no — no one," said the president. "Immunity doesn't mean impunity."
In one of the videos, Guido Rodriguez says he was paid about US$420 for attacking the Supreme Court with Molotov cocktails on April 8.
For over two weeks, the opposition has led violent protests in response to a recent decision by the Supreme Court to temporarily assume some responsibilities of the National Assembly as long as the legislature continued to be “in contempt” of the constitution. Although the ruling was overturned within days, opposition leaders continue to call for protests and promote violence aimed at toppling Maduro.
The opposition announced a new round of protests Wednesday, which they have dubbed "the mother of all marches" against the government. In response, Maduro also announced a march in support of the government in Caracas and other cities.
Maduro said the Venezuelan opposition "is in a dead end and are crashing once, twice, three times in the same dead end that they got into four years ago, when the people gave us the presidential triumph," referring to the 2013 presidential elections in the wake of the death of late President Hugo Chavez that brought Maduro to power.
Maduro has called on the Organization of American States to condemn opposition violence, but instead, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has continued to attack the Maduro government and most recently demanded the release of the Sanchez brothers.
Almagro has said that if Maduro doesn't call for general elections — which the OAS chief claims is the only solution to Venezuela's political woes, a radical opinion not even voiced by Washington — Caracas will will be kicked out of the OAS, even though the Maduro government was democratically elected for a term lasting until the beginning of 2019.
Meanwhile, the opposition said the brothers had been tortured and forced to accuse the lawmakers of illegal activities. Maduro said he will bring to justice anyone who makes false allegations and denied the claims that the detainees had been tortured.
The president once again called the opposition to resume a dialogue that was suspended in December as the path to resolve the political crisis.