Venezuela’s Supreme Court has banned opposition leader Juan Guaido from leaving the country and frozen his bank accounts, media reports said.
The court, which is loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, quickly approved the measures on Tuesday after Attorney General Tarek William Saab asked it to take “precautionary measures” against Guaido, the BBC reported.
The opposition leader “is prohibited from leaving the country” until a preliminary probe is completed on the “harm causede to peace in the republic”, Justice Maikel Moreno said.
As leader of the National Assembly, Guaido has immunity from prosecution unless subject to a ruling by the apex court.
Speaking to journalists as he arrived at the parliament, the opposition leader reportedly said the moves were “nothing new”.
“I’m not dismissing the threats, the persecution at this time, but we’re here, we’re continuing to do our jobs,” he added.
The court decision comes shortly after the US said it had handed control of Venezuela’s US bank accounts to Guaido, whom it now regarded as the country’s legitimate president, the BBC said.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton responded to the court’s move with a tweet warning of “serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido”.
The ban comes amid an escalating power struggle, after Guaido declared himself interim president last week.
He has been backed by the US and other countries. Maduro has major allies too, including Russia.
A group of North and South American countries has meanwhile opposed any outside military involvement, the BBC report added.
Peru’s Foreign Minister Nestor Popolizio said the Lima Group — a 14-nation body, including Canada, set up in 2017 to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela — has been opposed to “military intervention”.
Even as the US have stated that all options to resolve the crisis “are on the table”.
Venezuela has been facing acute economic crisis and there has been an upsurge in violence.
Protests have been held across the country since Maduro began his second term on January 10. He was elected in 2018 during a controversial vote in which many opposition candidates were barred from running, or jailed.
At least 40 people are believed to have died and hundreds have been arrested since January 21, the UN said.
Hyperinflation and shortages of essentials such as food and medicine have forced millions to flee the nation.