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CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s top prosecutor announced arrest warrants Wednesday for the presidential campaign manager of opposition powerhouse Maria Corina Machado and eight other staffers, accusing them in a violent anti-government conspiracy.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab said in a nationally televised news conference that campaign manager Magalli Meda and the other Machado staffers were accused of being part of a “destabilizing” plot that included demonstrations, a media campaign and plans to attack military barracks.

Two of the staffers, including political coordinator Dignora Hernández, already were arrested Wednesday, Saab said, but Meda had not yet been detained.

A person familiar with Hernández identified her as the woman seen in a video circulating on social media in Venezuela in which she screams “Help! Help, please! No!” while at least three uniformed officers try to wrestle her into the back of an SUV. The person asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.

Saab said the warrants stemmed from what he called a confession by another Machado staff member, Emill Brandt, who was detained earlier this month and whose attorney, Omar Mora, told The Associated Press he has been denied legal counsel of his choice.

Machado, who has insisted on pressing forward with her campaign despite an administrative ban on her holding office, accused the government of unleashing “brutal repression against my campaign teams.”

The announcement of the arrest warrants came hours after an independent panel of experts investigating human rights violations in Venezuela told the U.N. Human Rights Council that the government of President Nicolás Maduro had increased repression efforts against real or perceived opponents ahead of this year’s presidential election.

“The mission confirms that, as has happened in the past, the authorities invoke real or fictitious conspiracies to intimidate, detain and prosecute people who oppose or criticize the government,” panel head Marta Valiñas told the council, which authorized the investigative mission.
“At the same time, the Attorney General’s Office continues to operate as part of the government’s repressive machinery to grant the appearance of legality to the persecution of critical voices,” Valiñas said in Geneva.

Machado last year overwhelmingly won a primary election held by an opposition faction. But the country’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice in January affirmed an administrative order barring the former lawmaker from holding public office for 15 years.

Machado, however, has continued her campaign, rejecting calls from inside and outside Venezuela to exit the race in time for another candidate to build up a viable campaign.

The latest round of arrest warrants, Machado said on the platform X, were “cowardly actions” aimed a closing Venezuela’s path to democracy. “Venezuelans, I ask you for strength and courage in these difficult times. Today, more than ever, we need to be united and firm to continue moving toward our goals.”

The election is scheduled for July 28. The candidate registration period runs from March 21-25.

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