A member of the Venezuelan parliament has been arrested in what the opposition claims is part of a fresh wave of government repression to silence dissent in the country.
Gilber Caro was arrested at a highway toll station on Wednesday, with police saying they found a gun and explosives in his car.
The substitute lawmaker is a member of the Popular Will party. Opposition sources said the arrest came on the order of a fledgling “anti-coup” unit inside the government, which they said is cracking down on dissent. The Popular Will said weapons were planted in Caro’s car to frame him.
However, Vice President Tarek El Aissami, who heads the new anti-coup unit, 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.
The arrest comes amid escalating tensions between the government and the opposition in the South American country.
A coalition of opposition groups said Thursday that they would not accept a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court overturning a recent congress resolution which declared that President Nicolas Maduro had abandoned his post.
The resolution, which was ratified at the start of the week, accused Maduro of neglecting his duties and letting Venezuela into a deep economic depression.
Maduro has repeatedly rejected allegations by the opposition and accused them of trying to grab power through a mounting systematic coup against him.
The former bus driver, who took office after the death of his mentor Hugo Chavez in 2013, has confirmed Venezuela’s economic woes, but says they are largely due to a slump in global oil prices.