Venezuela moves on Guaido, prompting warning from US

January 30, 2019 08:39
Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido speaks to the media before a session of the National Assembly in Caracas on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Venezuela’s government struck back at self-declared interim president Juan Guaido on Tuesday, seeking a travel ban and freeze on his bank accounts that prompted a warning from Washington of “consequences”, Reuters reports.

Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek Saab said he had asked the Supreme Court to open a preliminary investigation into Guaido, accusing him of helping foreign countries to interfere in internal matters.

He also asked the court to impose a travel ban on the 35-year-old leader and to freeze his bank accounts.

In response, US national security adviser John Bolton warned of “serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido,” in a tweet that described Saab as the “illegitimate former Venezuelan Attorney General.”

The US and several other countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state and denounced Maduro as a usurper.

Maduro, sworn in on Jan. 10 for a second term after disputed elections last year, accuses Guaido of staging a US-directed coup against him. Maduro is backed by a number of countries, including Russia.

Aimed at driving Maduro from power, the US on Mondau announced sweeping sanctions on Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA.

Guaido said on Tuesday he did not underestimate the threat of imprisonment but did not believe it was “anything new.” Many opposition leaders have been imprisoned in the South American nation.

“We are here. We will keep acting and working to confront the humanitarian crisis,” Guaido told a news conference.

Most experts believe the US sanctions and other measures against Maduro will encourage him to step down only if he loses the support of the powerful military, which until now has been mostly loyal to the leftist ruling party founded by late President Hugo Chavez.

Maduro appeared on a television broadcast from a military base on Tuesday, praising the soldiers’ loyalty.

As a lawmaker who heads the National Assembly, Guaido has immunity from prosecution unless ordered by a top court. However, the Supreme Court is loyal to Maduro and is expected to quickly open the investigation.

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