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Venezuela Police Detain Mayor Where Nationwide Unrest Originated

March 19 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan police today detained an opposition mayor of the city where monthlong protests started, accusing him of inciting rebellion.

A judge authorized the arrest of Daniel Ceballos, mayor of San Cristobal in Tachira state, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said on state television. Ceballos, a member of the Voluntad Popular party whose leader is being held in a military prison, was detained in Caracas without being shown a warrant, Johan Merchan, a party press coordinator, wrote in text message to Bloomberg News.

Ceballos’s capture comes as President Nicolas Maduro toughens his response to anti-government protests that have resulted in at least 30 deaths. Maduro this week dispatched additional National Guard troops to quell unrest in Caracas, warning protesters to “prepare” for increased military force if demonstrations persists.

“This arrest will help return San Cristobal to peace,” Rodriguez said today.

The sound of people banging pots and pans filled the air of San Cristobal after Ceballos’s detention as youths took guard at barricades surrounding the Pueblo Nuevo district that has become the center of protests. Demonstrations that have extended across the nation originated in the city Feb. 4 when students protested the lack of security at Andes University.

‘Our Ranks’

“Ceballos was always on the side of the students, supporting the protest but never the violence,” Carlos Humberto, a student leader at Santiago Marino Polytechnic in San Cristobal, said by phone. “His illegal detention will just broaden our ranks.”

Ceballos was detained in a Caracas hotel while meeting with other mayors from the opposition alliance of politicians. He was apprehended and led away by hooded men who didn’t identify themselves, Gaby Arellano, a protest leader at Andes University who said she witnessed the event, speaking in a telephone interview.

“What does the government hope to achieve with the fascist detention of San Cristobal Mayor Daniel Ceballos, peace or war,” opposition Governor Henrique Capriles wrote on his Twitter page.

To contact the reporters on this story: Anatoly Kurmanaev in San Cristobal at; Corina Pons in Caracas at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at Randall Woods, Robert Jameson

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