The following is a statement by Bill Sweeney, President and CEO of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), regarding the arrest and intimidation of several Venezuelan opposition leaders by the regime of President Nicolas Maduro:
IFES is deeply concerned with the deteriorating political situation in Venezuela and the blatant disregard for and violation of human rights as the government of President Nicolas Maduro brutally cracks down on the opposition movement.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the anti-government protests, largely led by students, which resulted in senseless violence, with numerous deaths and unjust arrests. One of those arrested was opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez who continues to be detained in harrowing and inhumane conditions.
Yesterday, officials from the Venezuelan intelligence agency (SEBIN) arrested Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, a fierce critic of Maduro's regime. Ledezma is accused of plotting a coup against Maduro, another baseless accusation that aims to silence the opposition movement while distracting from the growing dissatisfaction of the Venezuelan people with the struggling economy. This follows a familiar pattern, as the regime has indicted several opposition leaders in the past year on similar trumped up charges.
SEBIN officials are also reported to be standing outside the residence of opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, the 2014 recipient of IFES' Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award.
The escalation of intimidation and violence against voices that stand up for freedom and democracy is deplorable and must be condemned by the human rights community.
IFES stands by the fundamental freedoms and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which Venezuela is a signatory.