A Venezuelan opposition leader was arrested at a local airport Thursday upon returning to Venezuela after six years in exile in Peru. The government of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez had accused him of illicit enrichment.
"I feel a knot in my throat and my heart is jumping. I'm on my way to my beautiful homeland," wrote Rosales, 62, via Twitter before boarding a commercial flight from nearby Aruba, Reuters reported.
Rosales was the last person to face Chavez in an election after rising to prominence as governor of the oil state of Zulia, where he had been leader of the Un Nuevo Tiempo (New Era) opposition party. He fled the country in 2009 to avoid standing trial on corruption charges that he said were politically motivated.
Rosales was taken into custody after he landed in Zulia's capital, Maracaibo. Hundreds of supporters had gathered waiting for him. He arrived waving a Venezuelan flag.
Manuel Rosales ondea una bandera de Venezuela antes de montarse en el avión que lo traerá a Venezuela pic.twitter.com/DpbtmmxhYB
— Diario La Verdad (@laverdadweb) October 15, 2015
State officials said they would take him to Caracas and resume legal proceedings against him that were interrupted when he fled the country before his trial's first hearing. Other opposition figures, including protest leader Leopoldo Lopez, have been jailed by the government of President Nicolas Maduro, whose ruling Socialist Party faces reelection in the Dec. 6 parliamentary elections. Leopoldo Lopez was sentenced last month to more than 10 years in prison for his role in leading antigovernment protests in 2014.
Chavez defeated Rosales in 2006. He was charged in 2008 with improperly reporting his income as governor. Chavez had called him a "thief" and said "Manuel Rosales, I will sweep you from the political map of Venezuela." But supporters claim he is the victim of a political witch hunt.
Rosales had expected to be arrested but returned anyway because he came to believe that "exile is the worst prison," his lawyer, Jesus Ollarves, said.