Ken Livingstone blames United States for Venezuela's economic collapse

Reuters

Reuters

Robert Griffiths, who publicly backed Jeremy Corbyn in the recent election in Britain, was speaking to Julia Hartley-Brewer after reports two of Venezuela's most prominent opposition politicians have been snatched from their homes by the country's intelligence agencies, and Maduro won a hugely controversial election which could allow him to assume dictatorial powers - despite critics calling the vote a sham.

Surveys by polling firm Datanalisis showed more than 70 percent of Venezuelans opposed the new assembly. The opposition immediately disputed that number.

The US, which is gripped by allegations that Russian Federation sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, has a long history of interfering with democratically-elected governments in Latin America. Regional governments in Argentina, Colombia and Peru have also refused to recognise the vote.

Lacking the magnetism which made his predecessor untouchable to a large swathe of Venezuela's dispossessed, "Maduro's easiest path to guaranteed survival is a one-party state", says The Independent, "and this is what he is now intent upon".

"Maduro's blatant power grab removes any ambiguity about whether Venezuela is a democracy", said Michael Shifter, head of the Inter-American Dialogue research center.

Juan Carlos Gutierrez, the attorney of Lopez, said the government's decision to return him to prison was "completely arbitrary" and there was no arrest warrant.

Lopez and Ledezma were under house arrest for their roles in previous demonstrations against President Nicolás Maduro.

According to him, Lopez and Ledezma were both in Ramo Verde prison, a decrepit penitentiary next to a slum in Los Teques, about an hour's drive from Caracas.

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In November, another mayor, Rolando Espinosa Sr., was shot and killed by police officers in his jail cell. Mr Duterte has vowed not to stop until the last drug dealer in the country has been eliminated.

Angel Alvarez, a political analyst and professor at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, said such arrests are tactical. Many human rights groups considered him a political prisoner.

His allies posted on social media a video of a man who appeared to be Ledezma dressed in his pajamas being dragged out of his building by what appeared to be state security as a woman screams for help for neighbours. We do not know where he is or where he is taken.

"12:27 in the morning: the moment when the dictatorship kidnaps Leopoldo at my house", she said in another tweet.

They had called on Venezuelans to join protests over Sunday's election of the constituent assembly, which supersedes an opposition-controlled congress that a pro-Maduro Supreme Court had already stripped of its powers.

"There were 15 opposition parties that took part in the elections to the Constituent Assembly", Griffiths said, "which were carried out, incidentally, completely in accordance with Venezuela's democratically agreed constitution".

On Sunday, the death toll rose sharply with at least 10 people - including two teenagers - killed at protests.

The petroleum-rich nation was plunged into an economic crisis after global oil prices drastically fell neary three years ago. The remaining 364 seats were filled by pro-Maduro candidates after opposition parties called for a boycott.

An exit poll based on surveys from 110 voting centers by NY investment bank Torino Capital and a Venezuela public opinion company estimated 3.6 million people voted, or about 18.5 percent of registered voters.