The Latest: UN calls on Venezuelan parties to lower tensions

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Latest on the political crisis in Venezuela (all times local):

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1:50 p.m.

The United Nations says it learned "with concern" about reports that Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido's chief of staff has been detained, and it renewed a call for all parties "to lower tensions and refrain from any action that could lead to further escalation."

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq issued the appeal Thursday at U.N. headquarters in New York after being asked about Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' reaction to the detention of Roberto Marrero, a key Guaido aide who was detained overnight by Venezuelan intelligence agents.

He noted that U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet also expressed concern at Marrero's detention.

Haq said the United Nations still believes a dialogue between Guaido and President Nicolas Maduro "is crucial to help the parties step back from the brink of heightened escalation."

"No one wants to see the society fall apart in any way, and it's crucial therefore that the leaders engage in dialogue with each other," Haq said. "We have called, of course, on all parties including the security forces to take steps to de-escalate the situation and we are continuing with that call."

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12:15 p.m.

The International Monetary Fund says it's not ready to make a determination on recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela.

IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters at a press conference Thursday: "At this point there is not yet clarity."

He also said the IMF continues to monitor the situation "very closely."

He says, "Member countries are in the process of establishing their position," and adds: "We are listening carefully."

The Inter-American Development Bank was the first international financial organization to recognize Guaido as the legitimate president of the South American country, a stand taken by the U.S. and about 50 other countries that contend Nicolas Maduro's re-election last year was rigged.

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11:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump's special envoy for Venezuela says he believes Venezuelan authorities are concerned about what the international reaction would be if they try to detain opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Elliott Abrams said Thursday that he believes the government of President Nicolas Maduro is instead targeting Guaido's aides.

Roberto Marrero is a key figure in Gauido's camp and was detained overnight by Venezuelan intelligence agents who raided his home.

Abrams says the group of countries that support Guaido must "immediately respond" to Marrero's detention.

The U.S. has imposed oil sanctions on Venezuela as well as individuals linked to Maduro, and President Donald Trump has said tougher penalties could occur.

The U.S. and about 50 other countries support Guaido's contention that he is the rightful leader of Venezuela and that Maduro's re-election last year was illegitimate.

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11:45 a.m.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido says the Venezuelan government is weak and doesn't "dare" to detain him.

Guaido spoke Thursday after intelligence agents staged an overnight raid and detained Roberto Marrero, his key aide.

The leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly said "the chain of command" in the government of President Nicolas Maduro is broken.

In his words, "Maduro doesn't dare to jail me, or he's not in charge."

Maduro has described Guaido as a "puppet" in a U.S. scheme to overthrow him.

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11 a.m.

Masked security forces detained a key aide to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido in a raid on his home.

Lawyer Roberto Marrero was taken away by intelligence agents Thursday in an overnight operation that was promptly condemned by Guaido as well as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called for his immediate release.

"We will hold accountable those involved," Pompeo tweeted.

The Venezuelan government had no immediate comment on Marrero's detention, which represented a sharp increase in police pressure on the opposition after a period of relative calm. Guaido had even said that the government was ignoring him in an attempt to sap the energy of the opposition.