Venezuela Bars Opposition Leader Guaido From Public Office

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s socialist regime on Thursday barred opposition leader Juan Guaido from holding public office for 15 years, in a move that’s sure to further fuel tensions in the crisis-ravaged nation.

Comptroller Elvis Amoroso speaking on state television said that Guaido had filed false and misleading personal financial disclosure statements, which documented spending that vastly exceeded the income of a public servant.

Amoroso asked tax authorities to probe national hotels “for luxury stays, logistics and banquets" allegedly purchased by the opposition leader. Guaido, the head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly who’s recognized by the U.S. and some 50 other nations as Venezuela’s rightful leader, responded shortly thereafter at a rally in Caracas.

“They’re upset because we’re recouping the money they stole,” Guaido said. “They continue to attack an interim president, but we’ll continue in the streets.”

It is unclear if the measure would end Guaido’s current term in congress or what affect it would have -- if any -- on his bid to unseat President Nicolas Maduro.

‘Usurped’ Public Functions

The probe was opened in January after the 35-year-old lawmaker invoked Venezuela’s charter to launch an interim government and kicked off a wave of national protests after Maduro began another six-year term following 2018 elections that were widely regarded as rigged.

While Guaido has so far been unable to break Maduro’s grip on key institutions at home, specifically the military, he has gained widespread support abroad. The U.S. has since levied crippling sanctions against the Maduro government and frozen assets abroad.

Last month, Guaido broke a travel ban and met with Vice President Mike Pence in Colombia, toured South America and sat down with a half dozen heads of state as he sought to drum up regional and international support.

Amoroso said Guaido had “usurped” public functions and coordinated with foreign governments to harm Venezuela and demanded the maximum penalty allowed. According to Venezuelan law, the National Assembly would have to lift Guaido’s parliamentary immunity following a Supreme Court request based on a review of the reasons for doing so from the Public Prosecutor’s office.

In the past, the government has use this tactic to sideline popular opponents of Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez. When Chavez ran for re-election in 2012, Leopoldo Lopez dropped out of the opposition primary, citing obstacles stemming from just such a government ban, and threw his support behind Henrique Capriles. Capriles was later banned from holding office after he lost to Maduro in 2013.

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