Venezuelan government hits back at self-styled president

31 Jan 19

Venezuela’s beleaguered government is to freeze the accounts of a self-proclaimed “interim president” and investigate his alleged role in violent disturbances.

The chief prosecutor has asked the Supreme Court to probe the part played by Juan Guaido in bloody clashes since 22 January when he declared himself president.

Attorney General Tarek Saab said on state television that he has asked the court to impose a travel ban on the head of the National Assembly, Reuters reported.

The United States and several other countries recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s head of state after his declaration following disputed elections won by the socialist president Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro was sworn in earlier this month for a second term and accuses Guaido of attempting to stage a coup directed by Washington.

Following Guaido’s declaration, hundreds of thousands of people protested against Maduro, triggering violent clashes with police in which at least 40 people have died.

As a lawmaker, Guaido has immunity from criminal investigation that can be removed only by a high court.

He told journalists that he did not underestimate a 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,” he said.

The administration of Donald Trump is openly hostile to Maduro and earlier this week imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state-oil firm PDVSA.

The move compounds the severe economic pressure Washington has been placing on the country for several years which Maduro’s administration describes as “economic warfare”.

Russia has denounced the US pressure on Maduro’s “lawful” government and has criticised the US sanctions alongside China.

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