Top Venezuelan opposition leaders taken into custody amid fears of wider crackdowns

From the Washington PostCARACAS — Masked security forces staged middle-of-night raids Tuesday to haul away two leading Venezuelan opposition leaders already under house arrest, possibly signaling an expanded crackdown on dissent after widely denounced elections to boost the authoritian government.

The moves against Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma could intensify the international fallout after Sunday’s election that created a new super congress stocked with backers of the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

The vote was decried as fraud by the opposition and prompted the Trump administration on Monday to slap sanctions on Maduro. In a video posted online by Ledezma’s wife, security forces are shown apparently dragging the opposition leader from the glass doors of a building.

“They’re taking Ledezma!” another voice shouts in the background. A woman screams: “dictatorship! dictatorship!” …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and elsewhere. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, Russia, and even transnational criminal organizations.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform policymakers and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.