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Guaido security guards detained during break in Venezuela political talks

CARACAS (Reuters) - Two members of Venezuelan National Assembly chief Juan Guaido’s security detail were detained on Friday, both the opposition leader and government officials said on Saturday, during a pause in negotiations between the two divided political factions.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in a television broadcast that Erick Sanchez and Jason Parisi were arrested for attempting to sell rifles he said were taken from a National Guard armoury at the legislative palace in preparation for Guaido’s failed attempt to unseat President Nicolas Maduro on April 30.

The arrests came just days after representatives of both Maduro and Guaido returned from negotiations in Barbados to resolve a political crisis that began in January, when Guaido invoked the constitution to assume a rival interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

Norway’s government, which is mediating the talks, has said they are expected to continue. But the arrests could exacerbate tensions between the two sides at a time when other members of Guaido’s inner circle, including his chief of staff Roberto Marrero and National Assembly deputy chief Edgar Zambrano, remain in state custody.

“They are going to plant arms on them, like with Roberto Marrero. This is not new: we know what we are up against,” Guaido said in a speech in the western state of Trujillo, where he is rallying supporters this weekend.

Marrero was accused of smuggling guns and explosives from Colombia when he was arrested in March. His lawyer, Joel Garcia, has said Marrero denies all the charges and alleges that the Sebin intelligence agency planted weapons in Marrero’s home.

Venezuela’s chief prosecutor’s office has not commented on the arrest of Sanchez and Parisi.

Rodriguez said he would bring evidence of the weapons accusations against the two guards to the next round of negotiations with the opposition.

“We have to play clean,” Rodriguez said. “There cannot continue to be different agendas.”

Maduro calls Guaido a puppet of the United States seeking to oust him in a coup.

Reporting by Mayela Armas; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama