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Venezuela arrests major opposition figure, claiming coup plot

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Baku, February 20, AZERTAC 

Venezuelan security forces arrested one of the country's leading opposition figures on Thursday, accusing him of planning a coup.

President Nicolas Maduro made the announcement in a televised speech to this country. He said that Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma was hiding behind his elected office, but that he was going to be tried by the state for threatening the country's "peace, security and constitution."

In his speech, Maduro also blamed the United States.

"I know the White House has given orders to destroy Venezuela and to remove me from power," Maduro said.

As the Argentinian paper El Clarin sees it, this is an attempt by the government of Venezuela to strengthen its grip on his opposition.

"At 59, Ledezma is one of the veterans of the Venezuelan opposition. He's been a senator and governor and was reelected to serve as mayor of Caracas in 2013," the paper reports.

The arrest comes just days after Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez, the jailed leader of the opposition, signed an open letter asking for a transitional government.

Photographs posted on Twitter and television images showed protesters gathering outside of the state intelligence headquarters.

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