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Venezuela issues arrest warrant for ex-opposition leader Guaido

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido leaves after his news conference at the La Jolla Ballroom in Coral Gables, Florida, USA, on April 27. (File photo)

Venezuelan judicial officials have issued an arrest warrant against the former opposition leader Juan Guaido, charging the politician with multiple illegal activities.

Prosecutors were appointed "to issue an arrest warrant against him and to request a Red Notice from Interpol so that he pays for his crimes," Attorney General Tarek William Saab said on Thursday night.

Living in exile in the United States, Guaido was accused of treason, money laundering, impersonating public officials, and above all, misappropriation of $19 billion of the resources of PDVSA oil company and using money from the country’s state-owned oil company for his own financial benefit, the official said.

"Guaido used the resources of PDVSA (the public oil giant) to cause losses close to or greater than $19 billion," the prosecutor said, adding that he relied on "revelations" provided to the press "by a federal court in the United States."

Guaido described the charges lodged against him as “politically motivated” after the announcement by the Venezuelan prosecutor.

The Venezuelan government has said that it still has 27 different probes of Guaido underway but this is the first time it has sought his arrest.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro won the presidential elections in 2018; however, challenging Maduro’s re-election, Guaido declared himself the “interim president” of Venezuela in January 2019.

He had been elected back then as the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, the highest-ranking public legislative official.

The new Venezuelan parliament was sworn in 2021, with Maduro’s Socialist Party consolidating control and US-backed Guaido left out.

However, the Venezuelan government never arrested Guaido as he launched a failed uprising and sought to use mass protests to unseat Maduro.

In April this year, months after Guaido’s fellow opposition leaders voted to dissolve his self-declared government, Guaido left Venezuela for Colombia and then flew to the United States, saying the Colombian government had expelled him.

Guaido's self-declared government had long been accused by Caracas, and even independent observers, of embezzlement of public funds under its control, namely through the Venezuelan fertilizer company Monomeros and the Houston-based Citgo Petroleum, an oil refiner formerly controlled by the Caracas government.

The announcement of Guaido’s arrest warrant, though anticipated for months, comes as the Caracas government contemplates talks with the Biden administration over the possibility of lifting some US sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector.

It also comes days before Venezuela’s opposition is set to hold a primary vote to choose a candidate to run against Maduro in potential elections in 2024. Guaido is not among the nominees.

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