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Venezuela arrests former presidential candidate on return from exile

Former presidential candidate Manuel Rosales has been arrested in Venezuela on his return from exile. He joins a list of opposition figures in detention.

Hundreds of supporters gathered in the northwest coastal city of Maracaibo to greet former state governor Manuel Rosales as he arrived back from exile on Thursday.

But intelligence agents took Rosales into custody soon after his plane landed. The state prosecutor said he would be taken to the capital, Caracas, where judicial proceedings against him for alleged illicit enrichment would be resumed.

The 62-year-old Rosales sent a message via Twitter as he started his journey - "I feel a knot in my throat and my heart is jumping. I'm on my way to my beautiful homeland."

When Rosales announced plans to return last Friday, the attorney general's office warned he would be detained on charges of stealing public money while he was governor of Zulia state between 2000 and 2008.

Venezuela is holding a parliamentary election on December 6. Polls indicate that opposition to President Nicolas Maduro's Socialist Party is strong. Ahead of his arrest, Rosales said he would continue to oppose the 16-year-old Socialist administration and encouraged Venezuelans in the election.

The opposition to Maduro is divided between radical figures such as former mayor Leopoldo Lopez and moderate elements led by 2013 presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.

Maduro has said that jailed opposition leaders, including Lopez, tried to destabilize the South American country in 2014 through street protests.

Lopez was jailed for 10 years last month

for his role in leading the protests.

Rosales was defeated in the 2006 presidential election by Maduro's predecessor and sponsor Hugo Chavez. He was charged in 2008 of registering income, the origin of which could not be explained to authorities. He fled to Peru the following year.

Morales is barred from holding office until 2022 as part of a separate decision by the comptroller general.

jm/cmk (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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