Venezuela's Maduro tightens pressure on opposition

People outside the Democratic Action party headquarters in Caracas

Edgar Zambrano, the assembly vice president, said on Twitter that agents from the Sebin intelligence agency had surprised him and, after he refused to get out of his vehicle, were using a tow truck to take him to the Sebin's Caracas headquarters.

Edgar Zambrano, left, with Juan Guaidó.

"We warn the people of Venezuela and the global community: the regime has kidnapped the first vice-president" of the National Assembly, said Guaido, who heads the body and has been in a power struggle with Maduro since declaring himself acting president in January.

"The arbitrary detention of First VP Edgar Zambrano by Maduro's oppressive security forces in Venezuela is illegal and inexcusable", tweeted Kimberly Breier, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department.

"We Democrats will remain on war footing", he said. The vehicle was towed, with him inside, to Caracas' notorious El Helicoide prison, the Guardian reports.

The US, one of the dozens of Governments including the United Kingdom which recognised the leadership of Mr Guaido in January, condemned the arrest of Zambrano and issued a stark warning against Mr Maduro.

Earlier Wednesday, Guaido said that Zambrano had been seized by intelligence agents, accusing the government of kidnapping his aide and trying to disrupt the "normal operation" of the parliament.

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The Constituent Assembly, a body set up by Maduro to outflank the opposition-led National Assembly, followed up by stripping seven of the deputies of their parliamentary immunity.

The three lawmakers - named as Freddy Superlano, Sergio Vergara and Juan Andres Mejia - have been accused of high treason and conspiracy.

Government officials announced that Zambrano and several other lawmakers were under investigation for treason and instigating an insurrection.

"I warn Venezuela and the worldwide community about the intention of the regime to disintegrate the national Parliament, through attacks carried out by the illegitimate Supreme Court of Justice and the National Constituent Assembly".

In response to the first indictments on Tuesday, Guaido said in a speech that the government's "only response.is to persecute, because they no longer govern, because they no longer have command".

Venezuela has suffered five years of recession that has seen more than 2.7 million people flee poverty, hyperinflation, food shortages and insecurity since 2015, according to United Nations figures.

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