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Venezuela detains six military, police officials - family members, activists

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CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan authorities have arrested six members of the country’s military and police forces over the weekend, according to relatives of the detainees and human rights activists, as President Nicolas Maduro seeks to weed out dissent.

Air Force Brigade General Miguel Sisco Mora was arrested Friday afternoon in a parking lot in Guatire, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of the capital Caracas, his daughter Stephanie Sisco said. Navy Corvette Captain Rafael Costa was detained on Friday in nearby Guarenas, according to his wife Waleska Perez.

“We demand that the government provide us with information about his whereabouts,” Stephanie Sisco wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

The arrests come nearly two months after a failed uprising against Maduro called by opposition leader Juan Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly who in January invoked the constitution to assume a rival interim presidency and has called on the armed forces to join his cause.

They also come on the heels of a visit to Venezuela by U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, who on Friday called on Maduro to release prisoners arrested for peacefully protesting. Maduro, whose 2018 re-election has been widely denounced as illegitimate, said he would take the U.N.‘s concerns seriously.

Human rights group Penal Forum had previously said that two retired Air Force colonels had been arrested in Caracas on Friday afternoon while two high ranking officials from Venezuela’s CICPC forensic police unit were arrested in Guatire, according to human rights lawyer Tamara Suju.

Neither Venezuela’s Information Ministry nor the Chief Prosecutor’s office responded to requests for comment on the six detentions on Sunday.

According to Penal Forum, some 700 people are detained for political reasons in Venezuela, including about 100 members of the military.

Maduro’s government has denied it holds political prisoners, and frequently accuses the opposition of fomenting violence. Maduro refers to Guaido as a puppet of the United States seeking to oust him in a coup.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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