Venezuelan bishops repudiate arrest of opposition figure Roberto Marrero

Venezuelan opposition deputy Dennis Fernandez L at SEBIN hq in Caracas requests information on detention of Roberto Marrero March 22 2019 Credit Ronaldo Schemidt AFP Getty Images Venezuelan opposition deputy Dennis Fernandez (L) at SEBIN headquarters in Caracas, requests information on the detention of Roberto Marrero, March 22, 2019. | Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images.

The Justice and Peace Commission of the Venezuelan bishops' conference has repudiated last week's arrest of Roberto Marrero, chief of staff to opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

In the early hours of March 21, agents of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service stormed the homes of Marrero and Sergio Vergara, an opposition legislator and Marrero's neighbor.

Marrero was arrested along with his driver, Luis Páez. The Argentine daily Clarin reported that Marrero is being held in El Helicoide, a government facility often used to house political prisoners. He has been accused by the government of Nicolas Maduro of terrorism and treason.

Guaidó reported on Twitter that Marrero alerted him that the agents "planted two rifles and a grenade" in his house.

The Venezuelan bishops' Justice and Peace Commission stated March 22 that it "repudiates" the detention of Marrero and the raid on Vergara, "in the face of the actions committed by officials of SEBIN, with the authorization of judges and the participation of prosecutors from the Public Prosecutor's Office."

They stated that these acts "attack and violate the fundamental rights provided for in our Magna Carta", such as personal freedom and parliamentarian immunity, "which the members of the National Assembly enjoy in the exercise of their functions."

"This ecclesial body laments these violations and denounces them to the pertinent bodies so that they may exercise and comply with the powers that the constitution and laws confer on them in order to restore the violated rights of these citizens," they said.

The bishops' conference's commission reminded "the judicial officials, prosecutors of the Public Prosecutor's Office and the arresting police officers that they cannot justify their actions alleging compliance with orders from superiors. The consequent crimes of those actions are imprescriptible."

"In accordance with our Magna Carta, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, we reiterate that no individual should be apprehended and deprived of his freedom by arbitrary decisions," the bishops stated.

In face of this incident, they called on Venezuelans "not to lose hope and to trust in the power of Jesus Christ, which is the power of love."

Under Maduro's socialist administration, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages and hyperinflation leading millions of Venezuelans to emigrate.

Guaidó declared himself interim president in January and has been recognized by a number of Western governments, but has been unable to secure the support of Venezuela's military.

Caracas faced blackouts March 25-26. The government has blamed an attack by the opposition, while the opposition has noted decades of corruption and a lack of investment.

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