Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro moved Tuesday to try to check the growing clout of US-backed interim president Juan Guaido.
In response to the the United States handing over the country’s assets and bank accounts to Guaido, the embattled regime announced a travel ban against Guaido, after Attorney General Tarek William Saab went to the Supreme Court to seek some orders.
The Venezuelan Supreme Court also blocked all of the self-proclaimed interim president’s bank accounts and financial transactions within the country’s jurisdiction.
Media reports said the Venezuelan authorities have also launched preliminary investigation Guaido’s activities.
Venezuela’s response came in the wake of US State Department statement that Guaido has been handed control of Venezuela’s US bank accounts.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on the order last week, which was then followed on Monday by US sanctions targeting Venezuela’s state oil giant PDVSA, the cash-strapped government’s main source of hard currency.
“This certification will help Venezuela’s legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.
Guaido shrugged off the latest legal manoeuver as “nothing new.”
“I’m not dismissing the threats, the persecution at this time, but we’re here, we’re continuing to do our jobs,” he told reporters as he arrived at the National Assembly.
Guaido, who has been recognized as interim president by US President Donald Trump, sent a message to the Supreme Court on Twitter warning that “the regime is in its final stage.”
“You shouldn’t sacrifice yourselves for the usurper and his band,” he added.
In Washington, Trump’s national security advisor warned of “serious consequences” if any harm comes to the Venezuelan opposition leader.
“Let me reiterate — there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido,” Trump advisor John Bolton tweeted.
The opposition-controlled legislature, meanwhile, named “diplomatic representatives” to a dozen countries that, like the US, have recognised Guaido as the interim president.
It was scheduled later Tuesday to debate a legal framework for the creation of a transitional government and free elections.
The 35-year-old engineer stormed onto the political stage as a virtual unknown January 3 when he was sworn in as the president of the National Assembly, a body that had been largely neutralised by the Supreme Court.
On January 23, he declared himself the country’s acting president and vowed to lead a transitional government that would hold democratic elections.
To keep up the pressure, he has called two more mass demonstrations against the government this week, and he has appealed to the all-powerful military to change sides, offering amnesty to those who do.
At least 40 people have been killed in clashes with security forces nationwide and at least 850 arrested since January 21 when a brief military rebellion was put down in Caracas, according to the UN human rights office in Geneva.