Two opposition mayors were arrested for their alleged inaction in the face of violent anti-government protests after a court decision, Venezuela's interior minister said Thursday.
"The state entities, and ... not the government, are acting to protect the rights of the majority and not to protect the rights of a small group who wants, under the excuse of the right to protest, to stir up the lives of Venezuelans and strike at the governability necessary in the country," Miguel Rodriguez Torres told reporters.
The mayor of the western city of San Cristobal, Daniel Ceballos, was taken into custody on Wednesday after a court issued an order for his arrest on charges of "civil rebellion" and criminal conspiracy.
Vicencio Scarano, mayor of the central city of San Diego, was sentenced by Venezuela's Supreme Court to 10 months and 15 days in prison and removal from office for ignoring the court's previous injunction ordering him to prevent government opponents from barricading streets.
Sentenced to a similar term behind bars for the same reasons was San Diego police chief Salvatore Lucchese.
"They are decisions by the organs of justice. It's not the government who is ordering anyone arrested but rather all the steps and procedures established in the law are being fulfilled, including everything regarding due process and the right citizens have to a legitimate defense," said Rodriguez Torres.
The minister said that the three were sent to the Ramo Verde military prison on the outskirts of Caracas, where the leader of the opposition Popular Will party, Leopoldo Lopez, has been imprisoned for a month.
Since Feb. 12, Venezuela has been experiencing a wave of protests against the government of Nicolas Maduro that have led to acts of violence and an official death toll of 31, with more than 450 people injured and almost 2,000 arrested.
Fatalities include both opponents and supporters of the government, as well as bystanders and members of the security forces.
Authorities have charged more than a dozen police and soldiers with violating the human rights of demonstrators, while the government also points the finger at the most radical elements among the opposition. EFE