Venezuela arrests mayor accused of coup plot

Feb 20, 2015, 12:03 AM EST
Antonio Ledezma, a Venezuelan opposition leader and mayor of Caracas, gives a speech to supporters during a Citizens' Congress in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, on Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
AFP/Getty Images

Venezuelan arrested opposition leader and Caracas metropolitan mayor Antonio Ledezma on Thursday in a move the government said was needed to halt a U.S.-backed coup plot but foes decried as tyranny, reports Reuters.

Intelligence agents took the 59-year-old veteran politician from his office in the banking district of Caracas after breaking down doors and firing shots in the air, witnesses said. "I just saw how they took Ledezma out of his office as if he were a dog," wrote opposition legislator Ismael Garcia via Twitter.

"They broke down the doors without an arrest warrant." The arrest comes a year after the outbreak of opposition protests calling for President Nicolas Maduro's resignation that rocked the OPEC nation and sparked violence killing 43 people.

Protesters and security forces have clashed sporadically around that anniversary, while a shrinking economy and chronic product shortages have sent Maduro's popularity tumbling. His government in recent days said dissident air force officers had been planning to topple Maduro in league with opposition leaders and the United States.

Officials cited an opposition document signed by Ledezma that called for a "national transition" as evidence he was involved.

Ledezma's wife and aides said late on Thursday they did not know his whereabouts or what he might be charged with.