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Venezuela names ex-spy chief as head of new presidential security unit

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CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s former spy chief, who was ousted last year amid an uproar over the death of a jailed opposition politician, was sworn in on Tuesday as the head of a newly-created presidential security counsel, according to state television.

Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez was replaced as the head of the National Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin) in October after opposition councilman Fernando Alban died while detained at the agency’s headquarters in Caracas. The death was officially ruled a suicide, but critics said he was killed.

Gonzalez Lopez was sworn in by Vice President Delcy Rodriguez in a brief ceremony just days before socialist President Nicolas Maduro is set to be inaugurated for a second term. Other countries in the region have called on him not to take office, arguing his May 2018 re-election vote was a sham.

Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for further details about the new counsel’s responsibilities. Maduro last month accused the United States and neighbouring Colombia of plotting to invade Venezuela, without providing evidence.

Gonzalez Lopez, who has not spoken publicly since he left his post at Sebin and did not make comments during the ceremony, is sanctioned by the United States and the European Union, along with several other Venezuelan government officials, for alleged human rights violations.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas and Vivian Sequera; writing by Luc Cohen; editing by Chris Reese)

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