President Trump has condemned the arrests of two opposition leaders in Venezuela, branding the country's president a dictator.
The White House called for the release of Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez, high profile critics of President Nicolas Maduro, reportedly hauled out of their houses by intelligence services and jailed earlier this week.
In a statement released Tuesday, Trump said the pair were being held illegally, calling for their immediate release.
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Strong message: President Donald Trump called for the immediate release of two high profile critics of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, branding Maduro a 'dictator'
'The United States condemns the actions of the Maduro dictatorship,' the White House said in a statement.
'Mr. Lopez and Mr. Ledezma are political prisoners being held illegally by the regime,' the statement read. 'The United States holds Maduro - who publicly announced just hours earlier that he would move against his political opposition - personally responsible for the health and safety of Mr. Lopez, Mr. Ledezma, and any others seized.
'We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.'
Yesterday, dramatic footage emerged showing Mr Ledzema and Mr Lopez being dragged away from their homes after controversial elections marred by bloodshed.
The arrests came a day after a vote to choose a much-condemned assembly that supersedes parliament.
Dramatic footage has emerged showing two Venezuelan opposition leaders being dragged away from their homes after controversial elections marred by bloodshed. One clip (above) shows Antonio Ledezma being forcibly removed from his house as women scream in the background
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the 'illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people.'
In one arrest video, Ledezma can be seen being forcibly removed from a building as women scream in the back ground. Another purportedly shows Lopez being bundled into a vehicle.
Lopez and Ledezma were both already under house arrest when they were picked up by the intelligence service.
Both had called for a boycott of Sunday's vote for a so-called and all-powerful constituent assembly tasked with rewriting the constitution.
Both of their families said they held President Nicolas Maduro, the driving force behind the vote, responsible for the leaders' lives.
'They just took Leopoldo away. We do not know where he is or where they are taking him,' Lopez's wife Lilian Tintori said on Twitter.
Another purportedly shows Leopoldo Lopez, another high profile critics of President Nicolas Maduro, being bundled into a vehicle
Arrest: The footage shows him Lopez being marched to a vehicle by intelligence services
Antonio Ledezma, a high profile critic of President Nicolas Maduro (pictured), was hauled out of his house by intelligence services, his children say
The children of Ledezma - named Victor, Vanessa and Antonietta - also said on Twitter that the Sebin had taken away their father.
Opposition leaders and local media posted cell phone footage of Ledezma being taken away from his home forcibly.
Opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara said the arrests were aimed at 'frightening us and demoralising us.'
Last night,Maduro brushed off new U.S. sanctions on him and condemnation at home and abroad of the newly chosen constitutional assembly, saying the vote has given him a popular mandate to radically overhaul Venezuela's political system.
Maduro said Monday evening he had no intention of deviating from his plans to rewrite the constitution and go after a string of enemies, from independent Venezuelan news channels to gunmen he claimed were sent by neighbouring Colombia to disrupt the vote as part of an international conspiracy led by the man he calls 'Emperor Donald Trump.'
'They don't intimidate me. The threats and sanctions of the empire don't intimidate me for a moment,' Maduro said on national television. 'I don't listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever ... Bring on more sanctions, Donald Trump.'
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez (pictured) was arrested at his home, his wife has claimed
The children of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma (pictured) - named Victor, Vanessa and Antonietta - also said on Twitter that the intelligence services had taken away their father
A few hours earlier, Washington added Maduro to a steadily growing list of high-ranking Venezuelan officials targeted by financial sanctions, escalating a tactic that has so far failed to alter his socialist government's behavior.
For now, the Trump administration did not deliver on threats to sanction Venezuela's oil industry, which could undermine Maduro's government but raise U.S. gas prices and deepen the humanitarian crisis here.
The sanctions came after electoral authorities said more than 8 million people voted Sunday to create a constitutional assembly endowing Maduro's ruling party