Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuelan opposition politician Manuel Rosales arrested

Manuel Rosales in Lima, Peru, 1 Oct 2009 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Manuel Rosales was granted asylum in Peru in 2009

Venezuelan opposition politician Manuel Rosales has been arrested on his return to the country after six years of self-imposed exile.

Mr Rosales, who said he wanted to take part in December's parliamentary elections, was detained shortly after landing in the city of Maracaibo.

He ran against the late President Hugo Chavez in 2006.

Mr Rosales fled to Peru in 2009 amid corruption allegations, which he says are politically motivated.

He was arrested on Thursday as he arrived at Maracaibo from the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. He is expected to appear in court in Caracas shortly.

'God and the Virgin Mary'

Mr Rosales is charged with corruption during his term as governor of Zulia state between 2000 and 2008.

Mr Rosales had announced last Friday that he was planning to return to Venezuela.

Shortly before departing from Aruba he posted a picture of him boarding.

"With God and the Virgin Mary, preparing to go to Venezuela to meet my people again," he posted on Twitter.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Eveling Trejo de Rosales, wife of Manuel Rosales and mayor of Maracaibo, went to the airport to try to meet him
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Venezuelan soldiers guarded the area around the airport in Maracaibo

The authorities had warned that there was an arrest warrant against him.

Venezuelans go to the polls on 6 December for the first parliamentary elections since President Nicolas Maduro was elected in 2013.

The country is facing a serious economic crisis, which the opposition blames on failed socialist policies of Mr Chavez and his successor, Mr Maduro.

The government says the country has been hit by a sharp drop in international oil prices, but it also accuses powerful groups of boycotting the economy to destabilise Mr Maduro.

Several other opposition leaders have also been detained since last year.

Last month, prominent opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was found guilty of inciting violence during protests in 2014 in which 43 people - from both sides of the political divide - were killed.

He was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison.

The US government and the United Nations have called for the release of the opposition politicians.

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