Juan Guaido, who has declared himself interim president of Venezuela. Image Credit: AP

Caracas: The Venezuelan government said Thursday it arrested a top aide to opposition leader Juan Guaido, regarded as interim leader by the US and other countries, for “terrorism.”

Interior Minister Nestor Reverol read a statement on state TV saying Guaido’s chief of staff Roberto Marrero, detained in a predawn raid on his Caracas home, was involved in a plot by Colombia and Central American countries to attack the leadership of President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

He alleged Marrero, 49, headed a “terrorist cell” and that “a cache of weapons and money in foreign currency” was found during the raid.

Read more

He added Marrero’s bodyguard, Luis Paez, 34, was also arrested and faced the same accusations.

The arrest was denounced earlier Thursday by Guaido and the opposition.

One opposition lawmaker who is a neighbor of Marrero’s and whose home was also searched, Sergio Vergara, told reporters that Marrero had yelled out during his arrest that SEBIN intelligence officers had planted two assault rifles and a grenade in his place as a pretext.

The development has triggered alarm internationally. The United States, the European Union, and a grouping of Latin American nations plus Canada all denounced Marrero’s apprehension and demanded he be released immediately.

The United States has repeatedly warned Maduro’s government to not arrest Guaido or his close aides or it would face unspecified repercussions.

US President Donald Trump has reiterated that he was considering “all options” at his disposal to see Maduro dislodged and Guaido installed in power, implying military action if he deemed it necessary.

A UN spokesman Thursday expressed “concern” at the arrest and urged “all actors in Venezuela to take immediate steps to lower tensions and refrain from any action that could lead to further escalation.”