Ally of Venezuela's Guaido takes refuge in Chile diplomatic residence


FILE PHOTO: Emilio Grateron, national head of activism of Popular Will (Voluntad Popular) party, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Caracas, Venezuela March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition activist and former mayor Emilio Grateron has taken refuge in the Chilean diplomatic residence in Caracas, Chilean and Venezuelan authorities said, amid a wave of arrests of political adversaries of President Nicolas Maduro.

Security forces this week arrested opposition leader Freddy Guevara as well as other activists of opposition party Popular Will, accusing some of them of being involved in gang violence that paralyzed the capital last week.

Popular Will dismisses the accusations as false and says Maduro is jailing adversaries to stifle dissent.

Chile's foreign ministry said in a statement late on Friday that it had received Grateron as a guest "at the request of opposition leader Juan Guaido, and intends to provide protection to this person, who suffers political persecution."

Guaido in 2015 was elected as a legislator for Popular Will and is recognized by the United States as Venezuela's legitimate president, following Maduro's disputed 2018 re-election.

"Thanks to those who saved me from evil," Grateron wrote on Twitter on Saturday. "The truth will set us free."

Venezuela's foreign ministry said on Twitter late on Friday that Chile was "helping whitewash the violence suffered by the population of Caracas in recent weeks" by receiving Grateron.

The chief prosecutor's office has said it will charge Guevara, one of Guaido's closest allies, with terrorism and treason.

(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Mayela Armas and Daniel Wallis)

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