Venezuela prosecutor to investigate Guaido appointments
Venezuela’s chief prosecutor said Thursday he has launched an investigation into opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s appointment of a transitional board of directors for the state oil company.
Attorney General Tarek William Saab said the appointments by Guaidó and his National Assembly are part of an illegal power grab backed by foreign governments. He also said that ambassadors of Guaidó’s self-declared interim government are being investigated as part of the probe.
“Clearly, this legislative body, through criminal means, pretends to seize national powers,” Saab said in a news conference broadcast on state TV, calling the move part of a “circus”.
Guaidó declared last month that he has a constitutional right to presidential power as head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, calling President Nicolás Maduro’s election in May a sham. Guaidó currently has support from the United States and about 60 countries, which are urging Maduro to step down.
Saab said he’s looking into the board members who were designated on Wednesday to oversee PDVSA and its Houston-based subsidiary Citgo.
These people “will of course suffer legal consequences, as will the person who declared himself (president),” he said.
Guaidó’s representative in Washington, Carlos Vecchio, previously said that the move was taken to prevent Citgo from being “plundered by the dictatorship.”
The struggle over appointments – and thereby control of Venezuela – could come to a potentially violent head on February 23, when Guaidó says he will try to run caravans of US humanitarian aid across the Colombian border into Venezuela. The United States and other countries have also said they will send supplies through Brazil and the Caribbean island of Curaçao, while billionaire Richard Branson entered the fray and announced a benefit concert in the Colombian town of Cucuta.
Maduro has blocked the emergency food and medicine from entering and says that the intervention is part of a US coup attempt.
But the situation now puts both leaders in a tight situation: Guaidó could use successful efforts to bring in aid to regain momentum, while Maduro could be perceived as bowing to pressure if he allows the assistance to come through.
An oil-rich nation, Venezuela was once among Latin America’s wealthiest and politically stable nations. However, oil production has collapsed to one-third of historic output.