President Donald Trump condemned the actions of Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro’s government on Tuesday night after opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were dragged from their homes by state security agents and sent back to prison.
“The United States condemns the actions of the Maduro dictatorship,” the White House said in a statement.
“Mr. Lopez and Mr. Ledezma are political prisoners being held illegally by the regime,” the statement read. “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. We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.”
Shortly after midnight Tuesday, black-clad members of Venezuela’s state security force forced Ledezma from his east Caracas home in his blue pajamas, yanking him out into the night as a woman screamed for help. “They’re taking Ledezma!” the woman can be heard crying on a cell-phone video released by allies of Ledezma, a former mayor of Caracas. “It’s a dictatorship!”
Lopez’s wife posted security-camera video of him being taken from their home and bundled into a waiting car. “They’ve just taken Leopoldo from the house,” Tintori wrote on Twitter. “We don’t know where he is or where they’re taking him.”
The country’s Supreme Court claimed in a statement that the two men violated the terms of their house arrest by criticizing the government in messages released on social media in recent days. It’s the first move against prominent enemies of Maduro’s government since a widely denounced vote Sunday granting the ruling party nearly unlimited powers.
Lopez and Ledezma were being held at the Ramo Verde military prison south of the capital.
The court, which is controlled by Maduro allies, said it had received “reports from official intelligence sources” that Lopez and Ledezma were planning to escape.
Lopez’s attorney, Juan Carlos Gutierrez, denied the claims, saying the government’s decision to return his client to prison was “completely arbitrary.”
Lopez had been released from the Ramo Verde military prison on July 8 after serving three years of a 13-year sentence for inciting violence at opposition rallies. Many human rights groups considered him a political prisoner.
Ledezma was also detained in 2015 and has been under house arrest. Both leaders recently posted videos online denouncing Maduro’s decision to hold a vote for a constitutional assembly with the power to overhaul Venezuela’s political system.
Fox News’ Lesa Jansen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.