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Juan Guaido barred from leaving Venezuela

January 30, 2019

Venezuela has opened an investigation against the self-proclaimed interim president, saying he violated "constitutional order." The probe came as President Nicolas Maduro rejected calls for snap presidential elections.

Juan Guaido in Caracas
Image: Getty Images/AFP/Y. Cortez

Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice on Tuesday imposed a travel ban on opposition leader Juan Guaido and froze his bank accounts, the president of the court said.

Guaido, 35, last week declared himself the acting president in an effort to remove President Nicolas Maduro from power, throwing the South American country further into political crisis.

Supreme Court ruling

  • The Supreme Court, stacked with Maduro loyalists, has approved a preliminary investigation into Guaido's activities. Attorney General Tarek Saab asked for the investigation, citing "violent events in the country" and "serious crimes violating constitutional order."
  • Guaido is prohibited from leaving the country without permission from authorities "until the end of the investigation," Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno said.
  • The court also imposed financial restrictions on Guaido, including freezing his bank accounts.

'Serious consequences'

The United States, which announced sanctions against Venezuela's state-run oil company on Monday, warned the South American country against taking measures against Guaido.

In a tweet earlier Tuesday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton warned of "serious consequences" if the investigation request from Saab, who Bolton called an "illegitimate former Venezuelan Attorney General," was approved.

Guaido, who as thus far avoided arrest since his declaration, said earlier Tuesday that he did not underestimate the threat of imprisonment, but did not believe it was "anything new."

"We are here. We will keep acting and working to confront the humanitarian crisis," Guaido told a news conference outside Venezuela's national assembly.

Guaido attempts to seize power: On January 23, Guaido declared himself the acting president, telling supporters in front of the National Assembly that he would install a "transitional government and hold free elections." The declaration came less than two weeks after Maduro, who won re-election in a vote the opposition called illegitimate, was sworn into office for his second presidential term.

International support: Guaido's move has received backing across the globe. The US, Brazil, Canada and the Organization of American States voiced their support for Guaido. The European Union has yet to formally endorse the opposition leader, though German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin supported new elections in Venezuela.

Read more: Venezuela crisis: How the world sees it

Maduro rejects snap election: Maduro on Wednesday rejected calls for a snap presidential election, but said "it would be very good" to conduct early parliamentary elections. "Presidential elections in Venezuela have taken place, and if imperialists want new elections let them wait until 2025," Maduro told Russian news agency RIA Novosti, in an apparent reference to Washington.

Maduro's court: Several members of Venezuela's Supreme Court are close allies of Maduro. The court seized power from congress in March 2017, a move that the opposition-controlled legislature at the time characterized as a "coup," but reversed the decision a day later. Former Supreme Court Justice Christian Zerpa, who fled Venezuela to the United States earlier this month, said that the court was an "an appendage of the executive branch," claiming the court often got instructions directly from the presidential palace. 

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law,dv/se (AFP, dpa, Reuters)