CARACAS – Venezuela’s interior minister reported Tuesday the arrest of nine people on charges of leading, financing and organizing violent anti-government protests in the Caracas municipality of Chacao.
Thanks to “previous intelligence operations,” Miguel Rodriguez said, 10 homes were raided before dawn Tuesday, surprising nine people including one who, “according to people detained several days before, were handing out money” to demonstrators.
Police have warrants for 15 other raids, seeking to catch those who are directing “these violent groups engaged in terrorist activities,” the minister said.
He said that those previously detained, whom they also identified as ringleaders, confessed they acted not just for the money but also in exchange for “genetically modified marijuana.”
“They give them that drug to get them high and keep them in permanent activity against security forces,” Rodriguez said.
Chacao Mayor Ramon Muchacho, a member of the opposition to President Nicolas Maduro, said this Monday that in the last few days “nobody knows why they are protesting,” but said he continued to support peaceful anti-government protests while condemning those that have degenerated into violence.
Since Feb. 12, the Maduro government has faced a wave of protests against the insecurity reigning in the country, runaway inflation and scarcity of many consumer items. Some 41 people have died in the street fighting, with hundreds wounded and arrested.
Fatalities include government supporters and opponents, members of the security forces and bystanders.
The Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office has indicted security personnel in connection with several of the deaths.