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APTOPIX Venezuela Crisis
An anti-government demonstrator is seen behind a Venezuelan national flag during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, July 9, 2017. Opposition demonstrators are commemorating 100 days of continued street protests and celebrating that opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was released from prison and sent home under house arrest. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

State security agents took two Venezuelan opposition leaders from their homes overnight



State security agents took two of Venezuela's leading opposition figures from their homes in the middle of the night early Tuesday -- the first bold move by President Maduro's government since a recent vote that gave him nearly unlimited power.

Leopoldo Lopez, a symbolic figure in the anti-government movement, was one of those taken in the middle of the night. His unexpected release from a military prison last month sparked celebrations by many Venezuelans, who interpreted it as a step toward democracy.

Following the incident, Lopez's wife posted what appeared to be a video of him being taken away from their home.

"They've just taken Leopoldo from the house," Lilian Tintori wrote on Twitter. "We don't know where he is or where they're taking him."

State officials also detained former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma. Allies of the opposition leader shared video of a man who appeared to be Ledezma being taken away as a woman screams for help.

"They're taking Ledezma!" she cries. "It's a dictatorship!"

Ledezma, like Lopez, also spent time in prison, but was released in 2015 to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest. The two outspoken figures publicly denounced Maduro's decision to hold a vote for a constitutional assembly with the power to overhaul the country's political system.

On Monday, the U.S. Treasury Department issued another round of economic sanctions against Maduro's government, alleging that the leader has attempted to undermine democracy. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned those who participate in the government's scheme, saying they could face "future U.S. sanctions for their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela."

"Yesterday's illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people," Mnuchin continued. "By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy."

In response, Maduro said he had no intention of deviating from his plans to rewrite the constitution and challenge a string of enemies.

"They don't intimidate me. The threats and sanctions of the empire don't intimidate me for a moment," Maduro said on national television. "I don't listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever ... Bring on more sanctions, Donald Trump."

The election on Sunday came after months of anti-government protests.

Wuilly Arteaga, 23, a well known violinist in Venezuela was severely beaten with his instrument by officials after he was detained after a protest on June 20.

This violinist has become an anti-government symbol in Venezuela

Clashes between protesters and police have left more than 100 people dead and some 2,000 people injured over the last few months.

Venezuelans celebrated the release of political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez after more than 100 days of bloody protests

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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