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Swiss deny call with Venezuela's Guaido

February 21, 2019

The swift denial has come after the opposition leader claimed he spoke with the Swiss president about freezing bank accounts. He accused officials at home of moving money abroad as the struggle for power drags on.


Venezuela's opposition leader and interim President Juan Guaido told a Mexican television station on Wednesday that he had spoken with the president of Switzerland about freezing Swiss bank accounts held by Venezuelan officials after discovering "irregular movements" of funds.

The announcement came as Guaido continues to seek international support in his quest to oust acting President Nicolas Maduro from power. Guaido claimed that officials had been attempting to "irregularly" move funds out of the country and into private accounts. "We are trying to freeze all those assets, which belong to the republic," Guaido said.

Guaido: 'Time is running out for Maduro'

'This information is incorrect'

A spokesman for Swiss President Ueli Maurer quickly denied that any call between Guaido and Maurer had taken place: "This information is incorrect. There was no telephone contact between Mr. Guaido and President Maurer."

Switzerland is famous for the secrecy with which it guards its banking industry. That secrecy has also made it a prime destination for dictators, embezzlers and money launderers around the world.

UN military attache backs Guadio

In further developments in the ongoing power struggle that has gripped the South American country since Guaido declared himself interim president on January 23, Guaido garnered the support of another military leader.

Venezuela's deputy military attache to the United Nations, Colonel Pedro Chirinos, announced that he has recognized Guaido as the interim president.

So far, Guaido has recieved the support of an army colonel and an air force general — neither of whom have troops under their command. A retired air force major general as well as several low-level officers have also sided with the interim president.

Aid, or an invasion?

Also on Wednesday, the Venezuelan government announced it would close its air and maritime borders with Curacao and the Dutch islands of Aruba and Bonaire on Tuesday, as well as prohibit all vessels from leaving Venezuelan ports. 

The closings come amid mounting pressure on Maduro to allow US humanitarian aid into the beleaguered country, where citizens face massive food and medical shortages. Maduro has angrily brushed off the US plan, calling it a cover to launch a military intervention.

A friend in need

Russia, too, has waded into the standoff, announcing it would send aid to Venezuela and warning Guaido against inviting foreign powers into the country. Guaido has called on Maduro to allow the US to deliver aid on February 23.

A strong supporter of Maduro, Moscow has criticized the US of ignoring diplomacy. On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov characterized President Donald Trump's calls for the Venezuelan military to drop support for Maduro as "a direct violation of the UN Charter and a direct intervention into the domestic affairs of an independent country."

Ultimately, the balance of power remains in the hands of Venezuela's military leaders. Despite overtures from Guaido, Venezuela's generals have shown no willingness to abandon Maduro. 


js/cmk (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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