Venezuela’s Supreme Court of Justice has ordered the arrest and imprisonment of opposition Mayor Ramon Muchacho of the Caracas municipality of Chacao, which has been the site of intense anti-government protests against President Nicolas Maduro.
After about nine hours of deliberation during the hearing, the court sentenced Muchacho to 15 months in jail for failing to enforce a court order to provide free transit in his district. The order also bars him from political activity, including his duties as mayor.
Chacao is the smallest, yet wealthiest, district in the capital. In the past four months, its roads have often been blocked by barricades erected by opposition supporters in their efforts to overthrow the democratically-elected government.
On May 24, the Supreme Court ordered Muchacho and seven other mayors to block the erection of barricades, and where roads were blocked, to remove the blockades. The court warned that if the mayors did not follow the order, they could face between six to 15 months in jail.
Already prohibited from leaving the country, Muchacho, once arrested, will be held at the intelligence police headquarters in Caracas until they find a place to imprison him. Muchacho, who didn’t appear at the hearings, slammed the ruling as an attempt to stamp out dissent.
Apart from Muchacho, four other mayors have also been found guilty for not blocking the construction of barricades and for not dismantling them once constructed.
Venezuela’s opposition is in apparent disarray after failed attempts to stop the recently elected National Constituent Assembly. Turnout at an anti-government march Friday was one of the smallest in four months, where threats to prevent the ANC from being inaugurated did not materialize.
Even opposition violence, that has cost more than 120 deaths since April, has lessened since the ANC election on July 30.