Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures during a meeting with members of the Sao Paulo forum and left-wing parties in Latin America in Managua, Nicaragua January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas(reuters_tickers)
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela intelligence agents on Wednesday detained an opposition activist and accused him of planning violence though his party said the arms were placed in his car to frame him as part of an ongoing wave of government repression.
In a familiar pattern of recent months against opposition activists, Gilber Caro, a substitute legislator for the hardline Popular Will party, was arrested on Wednesday at a roadway toll in Miranda state, the government said.
"It's a matter of capturing and breaking up those who persist on the path of violence," said Vice President Tarek El Aissami, recently designated by socialist President Nicolas Maduro to head a new "anti-coup" unit within the government.
The vice president said Caro was carrying a gun, bullets and explosives, adding that the opposition politician had a previous criminal record, including charges of murder and drug trafficking.
Popular Will said Caro was returning from a family trip with his girlfriend when he was stopped and set up.
"We demand his freedom," the party said. "Our fight is for a Venezuela where every person can express himself freely without fear of persecution or jail."
While the government accuses opposition parties of seeking a coup with the connivance of Washington, critics say Maduro has taken the South American country down an increasingly dictatorial path. More than 100 political prisoners are now being held in Venezuela, according to the opposition and rights groups.
(Reporting by Corina Pons and Andrew Cawthorne, editing by G Crosse)