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Dissident Venezuelan General Resurfaces

Dissident Venezuelan General Antonio Rivero speaks to the media outside the United Nations headquarters in New York, Jan. 29, 2015

Prominent Venezuelan opposition figure and retired general Antonio Rivero has resurfaced after nearly a year in hiding, appearing at the United Nations in New York.

“I have come to ask for protection,” Rivero told reporter Celia Mendoza of VOA’s Spanish branch in a one-on-one interview Thursday.

Rivero said he called on the U.N. to stop what he described as “harassment” by the Venezuelan government, not just against him but against political prisoners and the entire Venezuelan population.

Rivero has been on the run since early last year, when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered his arrest for allegedly inciting anti-government protests last February that resulted in more than 40 deaths. The government accused the opposition of trying to stage a coup. Rivero had previously been accused of helping trigger the violence that followed Mr. Maduro's disputed April 2013 election.

Rivero told VOA the Venezuelan government's accusations and reasons for detaining him were not "justified" and represented a violation of his rights.
He said his family has also been subject to constant harassment.

Rivero was once a close ally of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, serving as the government's emergency management director until 2008. But in 2010, he retired from the military over concerns about a growing Cuban influence in the armed forces.