Venezuelan opposition deputy takes refuge with Argentine ambassador

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Caracas (AFP)

A Venezuelan lawmaker who backed a failed opposition uprising against the government said Thursday that he had taken refuge in the Argentine ambassador's residence.

Richard Blanco, one of 10 National Assembly lawmakers charged with treason for supporting opposition chief Juan Guaido's call for a popular uprising on April 30, sought sanctuary hours after Guaido's own right-hand man was arrested.

"I am here temporarily, in the residence of the ambassador," Blanco told VPI television the day after secret police agents detained Edgar Zambrano, the deputy leader of the National Assembly who had served directly under Guaido, the speaker of the opposition-led body.

The Supreme Court, accused by the opposition of doing socialist President Nicolas Maduro's bidding, charged him and nine other opposition MPs with treason, conspiracy and civil rebellion for their support of Guaido's bid to incite an uprising against the government.

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.

"I came here to sleep because my life was in danger," said Blanco.

Another of the deputies to be charged, Mariela Magallanes, took refuge Wednesday in the residence of the Italian ambassador in Caracas.

The Constituent Assembly had already lifted Guaido's immunity in April, accusing him of trying to "usurp" the presidency.

Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January and gained recognition from some 50 countries, has himself dubbed Maduro a "usurper" for allegedly rigging last year's presidential elections.

Set up in 2017, the Constituent Assembly is made up entirely of supporters of the socialist president.

Following Zambrano's arrest on Wednesday, Guaido accused the regime of "kidnapping" his deputy and said: "They are trying to destroy the power representing all Venezuelans, but they will not achieve it."