Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido denounced his uncle's detention on Wednesday, accusing President Nicolas Maduro of going after his family as a means of intimidation. Maduro's government confirmed the arrest.
Guaido called President Nicolas Maduro "a coward ... who does not show his face, who does not dare to step in a public square without security” while "mounting an attack” on the opposition leader's family.
Juan Jose Marquez was with Guaido when the opposition leader returned to Venezuela on Tuesday, following a three-week international tour, where he met with US President Donald Trump.
Marquez went through airport immigration without event, but as he was exiting he was held by agents of Venezuela's tax agency, Guaido's press team wrote on Twitter.
Guaido wrote that he would hold Maduro "responsible” for whatever happened to his uncle.
The government downplayed the detention. "He's detained, not forcibly disappeared, he's detained for bringing prohibited substances onto a flight," ruling Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello said on his weekly television program Wednesday evening.
Cabello displayed pictures of a bulletproof vest and alleged explosive material he claimed belonged to Marquez. The vice president also said Marquez had an electronic file containing information about "operations against Venezuela" in his possession.
Read more: What is going on in Venezuela?
Guaido attacked at airport
The opposition leader and national assembly president, who is recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela's legitimate president, has recently ramped up his push to oust Maduro, which began when he led a mass protest movement in early 2019.
During his international tour, Guaido tried to shore up support from governments and from Venezuelans living abroad. His meeting with Trump drew the ire of Maduro and was followed by a new round of US sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned airline Conviasa.
At the airport where his uncle was detained, a pro-government mob and employees of the airline clashed with opposition supporters, Guaido's entourage and the politician himself. One protester appeared to douse him with a fizzy drink.
But Guaido defended the sanctions, saying they were an "effective" form of pressure and warned of more to come.
"Yes, there will be more sanctions for the criminals and everyone that supports the dictatorship," warned Guaido, telling supporters to "look out for new announcements."
Venezuela has suffered from economic collapse in recent years under Maduro's leadership. The crisis has pushed nearly 5 million to leave the country, which triggered a migration crisis in neighboring Latin American nations.
jcg (AP, AFP, Reuters)