The Venezuelan opposition leader has warned security officers to stay away from his family after he challenged Nicolas Maduro’s claim to the presidency.
Juan Guaido told a crowd that members of a special police unit known for its brutal tactics had gone to his high-rise apartment in a middle-class neighbourhood of Caracas while his 20-month-old daughter was inside.
“I hold you responsible for anything that might happen to my baby,” the 35-year-old politician said as his wife stood beside him.
He rushed home and emerged an hour later holding his smiling daughter, named after Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan patriot who paved the way for Venezuela’s independence.
He described how four agents from the police’s Special Action Force had arrived at the building and asked security guards stationed there for his wife.
“Children are sacred,” he admonished the agents as a crowd of supporters applauded. “Wives are sacred. So don’t cross that red line.”
In a statement on Twitter, Venezuela’s police denied that special agents had gone to Mr Guaido’s home, dismissing the claim as “totally FALSE.”
Mr Guaido is at the centre of Venezuela’s political upheaval as he presses forward with establishing a transitional government after swearing himself in as the nation’s rightful president in a move denounced by Mr Maduro as a US-backed coup.
In a country where the socialist leader’s foes often end up behind bars, Mr Guaido has thus far managed to avoid arrest, but in recent days authorities have let it be known that even as his powerful international support grows Mr Guaido is not untouchable.
On Tuesday, the government-stacked Supreme Court barred Mr Guaido from leaving the country and froze his bank accounts while chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab, a ally of Mr Maduro, conducts an investigation into his anti-government activities.
“Once more they are playing the intimidation game,” Mr Guaido said. “They’re not going to succeed in intimidating this Venezuelan family.”
Even while denouncing the special police force, Mr Guaido appealed to them and the military to abandon Mr Maduro and abide by the constitution, which he contends instructs him as leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly to take the presidency.
The opposition and a large segment of the international community consider Mr Maduro’s reelection fraudulent, in part because the president’s most popular adversaries were barred from running.
“You have time to put yourselves on the right side of history,” he said.