Caracas holds Chile youth leader

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IOL pic mar18 venezuela protests update Reuters Anti-government protesters shout at National Guards during a protest against Nicolas Maduro's government at Altamira square in Caracas. Picture: Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Caracas/Santiago - A right-wing Chilean youth leader was detained late on Thursday in Venezuela's capital, Caracas, sparking protests from officials in Chile and from opposition leaders in Venezuela.

Felipe Cuevas, who heads the youth wing of Chile's conservative Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party, was arrested for taking photos in an unauthorized place and for not carrying identification, Chile's ambassador to Venezuela said on Friday.

The spokesman for Chile's center-left government, cabinet minister Alvaro Elizalde, said Venezuela's ambassador had been called in to discuss the incident. “The government is carrying out all actions it can to resolve this situation, as it would with any Chilean citizen in similar circumstances,” he said.

In Caracas, Cuevas had attempted to visit anti-government protesters who had been arrested earlier this year, and was detained along with several Venezuelan activists, said Maria Corina Machado, a fierce critic of Venezuela's socialist government and a former legislator.

Venezuelan authorities have not confirmed the arrest, and the interior ministry did not respond to calls seeking comment.

But Chile's deputy foreign minister, Edgardo Riveros, said Venezuelan authorities “appeared willing” to understand the circumstances.

Cuevas was invited to Venezuela by opposition figures and met with Machado during his stay, Machado said. She said he also attended the trial of detained protest leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Ernesto Silva, leader of Chile's opposition UDI party, which includes several former collaborators of late dictator Augusto Pinochet, criticized the Maduro government for not releasing information about Cuevas's arrest.

“He has been arrested in an arbitrary, illegal and unbecoming way,” Silva said on Friday during an interview with Chilean TV.

The head of Chile's lower house foreign relations committee, Jorge Tarud of the governing Nueva Mayoria bloc, demanded the immediate release of Cuevas.

“If he is not freed today, there are multiple diplomatic measures that can be taken,” he said.


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