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©Getty Images/AFP/Juan Barreto

The seizure of two opposition leaders in Caracas late last night is a telling sign that the Maduro administration is desperate to silence all forms of criticism as the political and humanitarian crisis in the country approaches breaking point, Amnesty International said.

“The Maduro administration is sending a terrifying message to all people in Venezuela: dissent will not be tolerated in any form,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

In the early hours of the morning, officers from the Venezuelan intelligence services took Leopoldo López, leader of the opposition party Voluntad Popular, and Antonio Ledezma, the former mayor of Caracas from their homes without a warrant. Both men had been transferred to house arrest on health grounds.

“The clock is ticking fast and time is running out for authorities in Venezuela to make a decisive U-turn when it comes to their approach to free expression. The alternative is simply too frightening.”

López, prisoner of conscience, was serving charges of inciting violence during anti-government protests in 2014 and Ledezma was arrested accused of conspiracy in 2015.

“The Venezuelan government must guarantee that both men have full access to their lawyers and that due process is fully respected in their cases.”