In Venezuela, the arrests of the coup leaders have begun

Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro is sending out the goon squad this week to quietly begin rounding up the people who participated in the attempted coup last week. While he’s not yet going after the person who actually sent out the call to revolt, his secret police force started with someone very close to the top. National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano was picked up last night after leaving his office. (Associated Press)

Security forces arrested the No. 2 leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress Wednesday as President Nicolás Maduro’s government began going after foes tied to a failed attempt to stir up a military uprising last week.

National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano was leaving his Democratic Action party’s headquarters when he was surprised by a commando unit from the feared SEBIN intelligence agency who surrounded his car.

A half hour later, the officers towed the vehicle away with the lawmaker still inside, at the same that Maduro was speaking live on state TV inaugurating an agricultural project. Neighbors looking on shouted “assassins” as the heavily armed agents pulled away.

It seems that Zambrano was unwilling to get out of his car and go along quietly so SEBIN called for a tow truck and dragged the entire vehicle off to some unknown destination. The rest of the Assembly leadership that spoke out in favor of Guaido’s attempted uprising have clearly been put on notice and are probably getting their affairs in order.

The SEBIN intelligence agency is also known as the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service. They’re described as an “internal intelligence service.” In other words, they’re the secret police who check up on the affairs of their own citizens on behalf of the regime and are empowered to make troublesome citizens disappear if it suits the whims of the dictator. They technically report directly to the Vice President of Venezuela, but it’s Maduro’s world, so he’s calling all the shots.

Thus far Maduro has held off from arresting Juan Guaido himself. The interim president was on the road this week, giving speeches in several different locations. The fact that he’s still not behind bars could be a sign that Nicolas Maduro isn’t quite as sure of his absolute authority as he was a year ago. The United States has been warning him of “grave consequences” if any harm comes to Guaido, so I suppose it’s possible that he’s tempering his response to the coup to avoid trouble with us.

Then again, Maduro may simply be taking his time and having his lawyers make sure he has all his ducks in a row before they arrest him. After all, the guy did stand up on an automotive overpass with some soldiers and call for the military to depose the president. Seems like Maduro could definitely come up with some charges based on that. In any event, the military clearly isn’t ready to abandon Maduro yet and the attempted ouster of Nicolas Maduro has failed… for now.