CARACAS: Venezuelan lawmakers loyal to President Nicolas Maduro stripped opposition leader Juan Guaido’s immunity on Tuesday — and authorised the high court to criminally prosecute him for proclaiming himself the crisis-hit country’s ruler.
Guaido — whose claim is recognised by over 50 countries — had earlier expressed fears of being abducted by government agents following a request by the Supreme Court to the Constituent Assembly to lift his parliamentary immunity.
Critics of the controversial two-year-old body say it was created to rubber-stamp Maduro’s decisions and sideline the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
The Constituent Assembly’s president, Diosdado Cabello, announced pro-Maduro lawmakers had unanimously authorised the Supreme Court to prosecute Guaido, leaving him also liable to be charged for breaching a Jan 29 government ban on leaving the country.
The court had been investigating Guaido for usurping Maduro’s powers by declaring himself interim president on Jan 23 — a move which rapidly gained international support.
The court ruling, issued on Monday, cited Guaido’s violation of a ban on his travel outside Venezuela when he visited Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay from late February to early March.
The move came after Venezuela’s auditor general’s office announced last week that it had stripped Guaido of the right to hold public office for 15 years, a decision he rejected as invalid.
Parallel to the political battle, the country has been hit by a series of devastating blackouts that have left millions without water, prompting the government to replace the country’s energy minister and institute power rationing in a bid to address the outages.
Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2019