Venezuelan authorities on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader and former interim president Juan Guaidó, who dismissed the move as political.
During a press conference in the capital Caracas, Attorney General Tarek William Saab alleged that Guaidó had used the resources of the state oil company PDVSA to finance himself and pay his legal expenses.
“Juan Guaidó used PDVSA resources to finance himself, pay his legal expenses and forced PDVSA to accept his financing conditions. These decisions caused losses to the nation of 19 billion dollars, resulting in the almost definitive loss of Citgo,” said Saab, adding that Venezuela will request a red notice from Interpol.
“That is why we have opened a new investigation against former deputy Juan Guaidó, and we have requested an arrest warrant against him,” he said.
Guaidó served as interim president of Venezuela’s transitional government from 2019 until the end of 2022, when he was removed from his leadership position after struggling to make significant progress against the authoritarian regime of Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.
This spring, Guaidó traveled to Miami, where he remains. 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 have been killed by the dictatorship. . .”
Saab said that the arrest warrant against Guaidó will be for the alleged crimes of treason; usurpation of functions; gain or extraction of money, securities and public goods; money laundering; and association.
He also said that in the country there are at least 28 ongoing investigations against Guaidó for a series of alleged crimes that include usurpation of functions, money laundering, terrorism, arms trafficking and treason.
“Those who at some point believed in this guy and went out to march; They see that they found him as a common criminal of the worst caliber, robbing and kidnapping,” said Saab.
Guaidó’s spokesperson declined to comment on the accusations, but during a live broadcast on his Instagram account, Guaidó called them “false” and challenged President Maduro to bring himself to justice.
“This message goes to you Maduro, tomorrow we will see you in any US prosecutor’s office or if you prefer in another jurisdiction, The Hague. Then we can go directly to the jurisdiction that also points directly to it,” Guaidó said.
In June, the International Criminal Court ruled that prosecutors should resume investigating alleged crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela by security forces during President Maduro’s government.
“The question is, why now? “Why didn’t the dictatorship do it 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 in all places where possible, as a criminal.”
Venezuela is scheduled to hold presidential elections 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 followers to vote in the upcoming opposition primary elections on October 22, saying: “today the vote is hijacked in Venezuela, but we have the opportunity to mobilize again to confront Nicolás Maduro.”
The United States, which had long supported Guaidó, has softened its stance somewhat toward Caracas as the region struggles with rising energy costs and hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan immigrants.
On Thursday, senior Biden administration officials said the United States will restart deportations of Venezuelans directly to Venezuela in an attempt to stem the record influx of crossings at the US-Mexico border, marking a major shift in policy.
Venezuelans who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border and lack a legal basis to remain in the United States will be eligible for deportation, senior administration officials said, adding that Venezuela had agreed to accept back its nationals.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the new policy “a key piece” of the administration’s approach to migration. However, advocacy groups have criticized the change as dangerous for deportees; The policy “will likely lead to unsafe returns,” Refugees International warned in a statement.
In his interview with CNN on Friday, Guaidó said he did not believe the deportation agreement was related to his arrest. However, he did say that he stressed Maduro’s interest in gaining international recognition as Venezuela’s head of state.
“They are not going to stop the immigration situation simply by stopping migration or connecting flights. We need to stop the regime and recover rights in Venezuela,” Guaidó said.
“The only thing Maduro is looking for is recognition, and even with these deportation flights, he is going to present them as de facto recognition for his regime. That’s what he gets out of this,” he continued.
“We never expected Venezuelan migrants to arrive in the United States directly, on foot, from Venezuela. It’s thousands of miles of desperation through the jungle. But we need to change the situation in Venezuela, return the country to democracy, if we want to resolve the migration crisis.”