WASHINGTON - The United States on Sunday condemned the Venezuelan government's decision to move Daniel Ceballos, a former opposition mayor accused of fomenting protests, to prison from house arrest and called for his immediate release.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said Ceballos's transfer on Saturday "represents an effort to intimidate and impede the Venezuelan people's right to peacefully express their opinion Sept. 1," when the opposition plans a major demonstration against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Ceballos was arrested in 2014 on accusations he helped lead violent unrest in the tumultuous western city of San Cristobal, where he was mayor. He denies the accusations.
Opposition leaders called his arrest an effort to quash dissent and describe Ceballos as a political prisoner. Maduro calls him a criminal who sought to destabilize the country, and denies Venezuela holds political prisoners.
Patricia de Ceballos said agents from the Sebin intelligence service arrived at their residence in the capital Caracas at around 3 a.m. on Saturday saying they were going to conduct a medical exam for her husband, who was granted house arrest in 2015 for health reasons.