Trump holds Maduro responsible for jailed opponents' health, safety
WASHINGTON DC, USA – US President Donald Trump issued a stern warning to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his "dictatorship" on Tuesday, August 1, saying he holds him personally responsible for the health and safety of two jailed opposition leaders.
Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were both already under house arrest when they were taken into custody, and the Venezuelan Supreme Court later alleged that they had been planning to flee, either into hiding in Venezuela or abroad.
"The United States condemns the actions of the Maduro dictatorship," Trump said in a statement issued by the White House.
"Mr Lopez and Mr Ledezma are political prisoners being held illegally by the regime."
The senior US diplomat for the Americas, Acting Assistant Secretary Antonio Francisco Palmieri, tweeted that this was "another step in the wrong direction for Venezuela."
"This action is further evidence of the Maduro regime's authoritarianism," he added, speaking one day after senior US officials declared for the first time that they now regard Maduro, who was elected as a socialist, as a dictator.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also condemned the detentions, saying in a tweet that the United States is "deeply concerned."
On Monday, the US Treasury slapped sanctions on Maduro, and National Security Adviser HR McMaster compared him to notorious strongmen Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and North Korea's Kim Jong-Un.
"The United States holds Maduro – who publicly announced just hours earlier that he would move against his political opposition – personally responsible for the health and safety of Mr Lopez, Mr Ledezma and any others seized," Trump said.
"We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners." – Rappler.com