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Venezuela Arrests Former Interior Minister Rodriguez

FILE PHOTO: Former Venezuela's Interior and Justice Minister and intelligence service head Miguel Rodriguez talks to the media during a news conference in Caracas, June 27, 2017.

Venezuelan security forces on Tuesday detained Miguel Rodriguez, a powerful former interior minister and intelligence chief who broke with Nicolas Maduro’s leftist government, a witness told Reuters.

The motives of the detention were not immediately clear. The ruling Socialists have accused Rodriguez of seeking to topple the unpopular Maduro amid Venezuela’s crippling economic crisis that has sparked hunger and disease.

Rodriguez, an army major-general who was close to late leader Hugo Chavez, was arrested during an event at the President Hotel in Caracas, said Indira Urbaneja, an aide to Rodriguez.

“They’ve arrested Miguel,” Urbaneja said in a phone interview.

A video circulating on social media showed agents escorting him into a white van amid commotion. As the jeep speeds off, Urbaneja is heard shouting “We have to denounce this!”

The Information Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The office of the Vice Presidency, which oversees the Sebin intelligence agency, did not answer phone calls seeking comment.

Maduro has clamped down on dissent in the last year by arresting or sidelining political rivals and has arrested dozens of oil executives.

Authorities have also detained soldiers on charges including treason, rebellion, theft and desertion, according to military documents seen by Reuters.