Venezuela’s opposition figurehead, Juan Guaido, has vowed to continue fighting Nicolás Maduro’s “cowardly, miserable and murderous” regime after he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity – a move that potentially opens the door to his arrest, Guardian reported.
More than 50 countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader since he launched his campaign to force Maduro from office in late January, including the United States, Britain and most Latin American governments.
But recent weeks have seen a growing crackdown from Maduro’s beleaguered administration, beginning with the arrest of Guaido’s chief of staff, who has been accused of leading a terrorist cell that had plotted a wave of political assassinations.
That crackdown escalated dramatically on Tuesday evening as Maduro’s all-powerful constituent assembly voted to strip Guaido of the legal protections he enjoys as a member of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled parliament.
“The time for justice is coming,” said Tania Díaz, the assembly’s vice president. As the move to strip Guaido of his immunity was confirmed, members of the Chavista assembly took to their feet and shouted: “This is justice! Popular justice!”
Guaido hit back, branding the move a “cowardly” attempt to stifle a popular uprising against a dictatorial government incapable of providing water, electricity and jobs to its people.
Venezuela has been rocked by weeks of crippling nationwide power cuts that Maduro blames on imperialist saboteurs in league with Guaido but most experts believe are the result of incompetence and corruption, Guardian notes.
The Trump administration has threatened the Maduro government with a strong response if Guaido is harmed and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has Trump’s ear on Venezuela policy, said before the vote that nations recognizing Guaido as his country’s legitimate leader should take any attempt by Maduro’s government to “abduct” him as a coup, TIME writes.
“And anyone who cooperates with this should be treated as a coup plotter & dealt with accordingly,” Rubio said on Twitter.
The Constituent Assembly, which is made up entirely of Maduro loyalists, met a day after Maduro ally and Venezuela Supreme Court of Justice Maikel Moreno ordered it to strip Guaido’s immunity for violating an order banning him leaving the country while under investigation by the attorney general.