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Venezuela’s Guaido stripped of immunity, cleared for prosecution

Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly member Gladys Requena (R) speaks to Assembly Chief Diosdado Cabello during a session in Caracas, on April 2, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Venezuela’s opposition figure Juan Guaido has been stripped of his parliamentary immunity, in a move that paves the way for the government to arrest and prosecute him for declaring himself “interim president” of the country even though an elected government is in place.

The National Constituent Assembly voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a measure that strips Guaido of his immunity and authorizes the Supreme Court to criminally prosecute him for proclaiming himself the leader of the country. Guaido also violated a travel ban and could be prosecuted for that violation as well.

“This formally authorizes the continuation of the trial (of Guaido),” said Constituent Assembly Chief Diosdado Cabello, referring to the measure. “Justice is necessary for the guarantee of peace.”

Guaido had parliamentary immunity as a member of the National Assembly, even though the opposition-held body was earlier dissolved. He plunged the country into political turmoil in January, when he suddenly declared himself “interim president,” rejecting the outcome of the May 2018 election, which Maduro won. He has been accusing Maduro of “usurping power” and calling on him to step down.

The assembly revoked Guaido’s immunity a day after the Supreme Court called on the lawmakers to take action against him.

Reacting in defiance, Guaido said on Tuesday that he would not back down from his attempt to overthrow Maduro’s “cowardly, miserable and murderous” government.

“We are not going to evade our responsibility,” he said after the vote at the Constituent Assembly. “They thought this would be easy. But it won’t be. If they want to move forward, they will have to assume the consequences.”

The administration of US President Donald Trump, which has recognized Guaido’s self-proclamation as “interim president,” has threatened Caracas with a strong response in an event of his arrest. Before the vote against Guaido was announced, US Republican Senator Marco Rubio accused the Venezuelan government of plotting a coup d’état and trying to “abduct” Guaido.

This is while Maduro assumed office after winning the presidential election. Guaido was unheard of until he unilaterally declared himself leader of Venezuela. Maduro has accused Washington of attempting a coup to overthrow his elected government and install its own “puppet” regime in the oil-rich Latin American country.

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