Residents speaks with National Police at the entrance of Helicoide prison in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 9, 2019, where Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly is being held after his arrest the previous night. The arrest of Zambrano unleashed fears of a wider crackdown on Thursday, even as members of the opposition issued renewed calls for weekend protests in a months long campaign to oust President Nicolás Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The arrest of a top opposition leader in Venezuela unleashed fears of a wider crackdown on Thursday, even as members of the opposition issued renewed calls for weekend protests in their campaign to oust President Nicolás Maduro.

The Wednesday arrest of Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly in Venezuela, was the latest move in a protracted, increasingly murky struggle between two camps vying for support of the military, which has seen some defections but whose loyalty to Maduro has preserved his grip on power.

Maduro's chief adversary, opposition leader Juan Guaidó, portrayed the arrest and targeting of members of the assembly as acts of desperation by a government whose leaders don't know who to trust.

The U.S.-backed opposition leader also announced new nationwide protests on Saturday, following clashes between police and protesters last week that left six people dead.

"They won't get us out of the streets," said Guaidó, whose public appearance in Caracas reflected his belief that Maduro does not have the confidence to arrest him.

Maduro has appeared to let Guaidó wage a campaign against him following U.S. warnings that there would be severe repercussions if he took action against his foe.

The United States says Russia-backed Maduro was elected illegitimately and that Guaidó should lead Venezuelans to free elections after years of turmoil. Maduro describes Guaidó as a collaborator in a U.S.-engineered coup plot.

Now, the government is chipping away at the National Assembly, the key Venezuelan institution demanding Maduro's resignation.

Diosdado Cabello, a leading political ally of Maduro, suggested Thursday that the government is being methodical in its battle with the opposition.

"We're not in a rush," Cabello said.

Venezuela's top court has announced investigations of Zambrano and nine other congress members for alleged roles in supporting Guaidó's failed appeal for a military uprising on April 30, as others have come under increasing pressure.

"This is clearly fallout from the uprising last week. It amounts to a reassertion of hardliners within the Maduro government," said David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, a non-governmental group.

He suggested that factionalism within the embattled government was on display, with Maikel Moreno, head of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, among those who were "trying to demonstrate their loyalty to the regime." Moreno had been identified by the U.S. as a conspirator in Guaidó's failed scheme.

Smilde also said hardliners within the intelligence service, whose former chief broke ranks with Maduro, are "showing they are still on board."

The U.S. and European and Latin American countries that support Venezuela's opposition condemned the arrest of Zambrano, saying his parliamentary immunity was illegally lifted.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the arrest of Zambrano "is an unacceptable and illegal act that is yet another reflection of the repression of the former Maduro regime."

"This assault on the National Assembly should serve as a clarion call to the region and the world that the dictatorship is not interested in constitutional solutions to the Venezuelan people's problems," Pompeo said in a statement.

Separately, Mexico also expressed concern about the arrest and the targeting of National Assembly members. The criticism was unusual because Mexico says it believes in nonintervention and has not recognized Guaidó as Venezuela's rightful leader.

A total of 29 National Assembly members, or 25% of parliamentarians who oppose the government, have been persecuted by the pro-Maduro supreme court, according to Guaidó.

Some members of the opposition-led congress have sought refuge in diplomatic missions, echoing moves made by 1970s-era dissidents scrambling for protection under the flags of other countries during the previous era of Latin American dictatorships.

Richard Blanco, an opposition congressman, on Thursday told VPItv, a local media outlet, that he had gone to the Argentine embassy. Another, Mariela Magallanes, is staying at the home of the Italian ambassador. On Thursday afternoon, legislator Americo De Grazia indicated on Twitter that Italian diplomats were also hosting him.

Opposition activist Leopoldo López entered the home of the Spanish ambassador after he joined Guaidó in the failed attempt to topple Maduro. López was detained for anti-government protests in 2014 and had been under house arrest for two years before he was freed.

On Thursday, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, a former spy chief who became a government critic, was also transferred by military police to a maximum-security cell at a Caracas military base, his political movement said. Rodríguez Torres was arrested a year ago.

Opposition Assembly President Juan Guaido, who declared himself the interim-president of Venezuela, gives a press conference concerning the previous night's arrest of an opposition lawmaker in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 9, 2019. The arrest of Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, appeared to be part of a carefully calibrated crackdown on the opposition by President Nicolas Maduro's government. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Supporters of Venezuela's opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido greet him as he arrives to give a press conference concerning the previous night's arrest of an opposition lawmaker in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 9, 2019. The arrest of Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, appeared to be part of a carefully calibrated crackdown on the opposition by President Nicolas Maduro's government. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
A Chilean national flag flies at the ambassador's residence in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 9, 2019. Some opposition-controlled National Assembly members are seeking refuge in diplomatic missions, including Chile, in a tactic reminiscent of 1970s-era dissidents scrambling for protection under the flags of other countries during the era of Latin American dictatorships. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Motorbikes sit parked in the driveway of the Brazilian ambassador's residence in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 9, 2019. Some opposition-controlled National Assembly members are seeking refuge in diplomatic missions, including Brazil, in a tactic reminiscent of 1970s-era dissidents scrambling for protection under the flags of other countries during the era of Latin American dictatorships. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Youth hang out next to a mural featuring the late President Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Madro, at the Petare shantytown, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Venezuela has been in sharp decline for years, suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Children play at Los Hijos de Dios settlement, once an empty field owned by the government now occupied by about 60 families, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 8, 2019. More than 3 million Venezuelans have left their homeland in recent years amid skyrocketing inflation and shortages of food and medicine. U.S. administration officials have warned that 2 million more are expected to flee by the end of the year if the crisis continues in the oil-rich nation. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
National Police enter the Helicoide prison in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 9, 2019, where Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly is being held after his arrest the previous night. The arrest of Zambrano unleashed fears of a wider crackdown on Thursday, even as members of the opposition issued renewed calls for weekend protests in a months long campaign to oust President Nicolás Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
A Venezuelan Bolivarian National Police officer stands guard at the main entrance of the Helicoide prison in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 9, 2019, where Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, is being held after his arrest. The sign in the background shows late President Hugo Chavez, left, current President Nicolas Maduro, and reads in Spanish:
National Police officers enter the Helicoide prison in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 9, 2019, where Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly is being held after his arrest. The arrest of Zambrano unleashed fears of a wider crackdown on Thursday, even as members of the opposition issued renewed calls for weekend protests in a months long campaign to oust President Nicolás Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)