Mayor of big Venezuelan city arrested in corruption probe

CARACAS,  (Reuters) – State security agents have arrested the mayor of Venezuela’s third-largest city for alleged corruption after President Nicolas Maduro asked lawmakers to grant him decree powers he says he needs to fight graft.

Valencia mayor Edgardo Parra, a member of the ruling Socialist Party, was picked up at his home late on Saturday by the national intelligence agency Sebin, the attorney general’s office said. It was the most high profile arrest so far in the president’s anti-corruption campaign.

Venezuela’s opposition says Maduro’s request last week for fast-track powers is aimed at targeting them under the guise of battling graft. The government denies this, and says Parra’s arrest proves it will go after corruption wherever it exists.

“We will not protect anyone who commits a crime involving public funds, which are sacred because it’s the people’s money. There are no untouchables here,” said Francisco Ameliach, the governor of Carabobo state and another member of the ruling party, told state media.

Valencia, a city of about two million people, is the capital of Carabobo. A statement from the attorney-general’s office said Sebin agents had found “criminal items of interest” during the raid to arrest the mayor.

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