Venezuelan authorities on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader and former interim president Juan Guaido, who called the move politically motivated.
At a news conference in Caracas, the capital, Attorney General Tarek William Saab said Guaido used resources from state oil company PDVSA to finance himself and pay his legal fees.
“Juan Guaido used PDVSA resources to finance himself, pay his legal fees and forced PDVSA to accept his financing conditions. These decisions caused losses to the nation of $19 billion, leading to the almost permanent loss of Citgo,” Saab said, adding that Venezuela would request a red notice from Interpol.
“For this reason, we have opened a new investigation against former deputy Juan Guaido and we have requested an arrest warrant against him,” he said.
Guaido served as interim president of Venezuela’s transitional government from 2019 until late 2022 – when he was removed from his leadership role after struggling to make significant progress against the authoritarian rule of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.
This spring, Guaido traveled to Miami, where he stayed. Speaking to CNN on Friday, he said: “Of course I want to be back in Venezuela, but at least here I am alive and free, which is not the same for many Venezuelans who are behind bars or who were assassinated by the dictatorship. .”
Saab said the arrest warrant for Guaido would be for alleged crimes of treason; usurpation of functions; profit or extraction of money, securities and public property; money laundering; and associative.
He also said at least 28 investigations were underway in the country against Guaido for a series of alleged crimes, including usurpation of office, money laundering, terrorism, arms trafficking and treason.
“Those who at one time believed in this guy and went walking; they see that they found him to be a common criminal of the worst caliber, stealing and kidnapping,” Saab said.
Guaido’s spokesperson declined to comment on the allegations, but in a livestream on his Instagram account, Guaido called them “false” and challenged President Maduro to submit himself to the justice.
“This message is addressed to you, Maduro, tomorrow let’s meet at any prosecutor’s office in the United States or, if you prefer, in another jurisdiction, The Hague. We can then go directly to the jurisdiction that also directs you directly,” Guaido said.
In June, the International Criminal Court ruled that prosecutors should resume investigations into alleged crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela by President Maduro’s security forces.
“The question is: why now? Why didn’t the dictatorship do this before? he said of the arrest warrant. “So no, Maduro, I did not allow you to kidnap me, I will not allow you to take away my voice, and I will continue to denounce you wherever possible, like a criminal.”
Venezuela is due to hold a presidential vote in 2024, although critics have questioned whether the elections can be free and fair in the country’s repressive political climate.
Guaido called on his supporters to vote in the upcoming opposition primary elections on October 22, saying: “Today the vote is kidnapped in Venezuela, but we have the opportunity to mobilize again to confront Nicolas Maduro” .
The United States, which has long supported Guaido, has softened its stance toward Caracas somewhat as the region grapples with rising energy costs and the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants .
Senior Biden administration officials said on Thursday that the United States would resume expelling Venezuelans directly to Venezuela in an effort to curb the record influx of crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, marking a major policy shift .
Venezuelans who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally and do not have a legal basis to remain in the United States may be deported, senior administration officials said, adding that Venezuela had agreed to take back its nationals.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the new policy a “key part” of the administration’s approach to migration. Advocacy groups, however, have called the transition dangerous for the sport; this policy “will likely lead to dangerous returns,” Refugees International warned in a statement.
In his interview with CNN on Friday, Guaido said he did not believe the deportation deal was linked to his arrest. However, he said it underscored Maduro’s interest in gaining international recognition as Venezuela’s head of state.
“They are not going to end the migration situation simply by stopping migration or connecting flights. We must end the regime and recover rights in Venezuela,” Guaidó said.
“The only thing Maduro is looking for is recognition, and even with these expulsion flights, he is going to present them as de facto recognition of his regime. That’s what he gets out of it,” he continued.
“We did not expect Venezuelan migrants to reach the United States directly, on foot, from Venezuela. There are thousands of thousands of people in despair throughout the jungle. But we must change the situation in Venezuela, returning the country to democracy, if we want to resolve the migration crisis.”