Mérida, January 24, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Leading members of the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) have reiterated calls for judicial authorities to arrest opposition politician Juan Guaidó.
The calls were made during a ‘Democracy Day’ march held on Sunday to commemorate the overthrow of the Marcos Pérez Jiménez dictatorship on January 23, 1958. At the event, President Nicolás Maduro told supporters that “it is taking some time to bring justice [against Guaidó], but justice will definitely come.”
The majority PSUV bloc of National Assembly (AN) lawmakers likewise petitioned Attorney General Tarek William Saab to take action, calling for “haste” in the reported 24 investigations open against the former AN president, as well as an “end to impunity.”
The parliament’s Anti-Corruption Commission accuses Guaidó ̶ who proclaimed himself “interim president” on January 23, 2019 ̶ of treason and fraud, while criminal proceedings against him carry charges including treason, money laundering, embezzlement, and ties to Colombian-based paramilitary gangs.
After receiving the petition, Saab wrote on Twitter that “hundreds” of arrest warrants may be in the works.
While a number of Guaidó’s associates have faced legal action to date, authorities have stopped short of arresting the US-backed politician himself. A short-lived detention in 2019 was reported to be a mistaken “unilateral” action that was not sanctioned from above.
Nonetheless, pressure has been building against Guaidó to justify the reported US $3 billion granted to him by Washington and allies since 2019. In September, authorities opened a new investigation for the “flagrant theft” of Venezuela’s Colombia-based agrochemicals firm Monómeros.
The former lawmaker was hit with a new scandal last week after Bolivian police announced the recovery of 12 vehicles allegedly stolen from the Venezuelan embassy in La Paz and sold during the time it was under the control of the Guaidó-led opposition.
Following the 2019 coup in the Andean nation, self-declared Bolivian President Jeanine Áñez established diplomatic relations with the Guaidó’s “interim administration.” Twenty-two other vehicles, as well as pieces of art and other equipment, were reportedly extracted from the embassy as well.
Sunday’s call was one of the strongest shows of support for his arrest from the PSUV’s upper echelons, with a range of national and regional leaders also offering their backing.
It comes in addition to similar demands from a number of grassroots movements and political parties. Since 2019, leftwing organizations have been pushing for legal action against Guaidó and other US-backed actors, as well as in a range of other cases.
In response, Guaidó struck a defiant tone during a parallel January 23 commemoration, urging supporters to hold street protests on February 12.
In his message, he claimed that Maduro has no moral authority to call for his arrest: “Nicolás, let me remind you that you are the one who is accused of crimes against humanity, with arrest warrants and rewards on offer for [charges of] drug running and terrorism.”
At the January 23 event, the opposition politician also stressed that the opposition’s main task this year is to build a unified platform to secure a presidential election “as soon as possible.” Referring to the ongoing presidential recall referendum bid, Guaidó accused Maduro of “savagely killing off” the process.
Last Friday, Caracas’ National Electoral Council (CNE) announced that efforts to collect signatures to activate the referendum would take place in 1,200 voting centers in a twelve-hour window on Wednesday. The process needs to gain support from 20% of the national electoral register (4.2 million people) in order to trigger the recall vote, with the CNE additionally ruling that this should include at least 20% of the electoral register in each of Venezuela’s 23 states and capital district.
The CNE decision was blasted as unfair by both referendum backers and others. The Venezuelan Recall Movement (MOVER) called the logistics a “political aberration” and filed a complaint with the Supreme Court to intervene. In the recent November 21 regional elections, close to 9 million voters participated in 14,262 centers.
For his part, CNE Rector Roberto Picón also criticized the decision, explaining that it rendered signature collection “unfeasible." Previous efforts to force a recall referendum were unsuccessful in 2016 after electoral authorities identified over 600,000 invalid signatures.