Venezuela's top prosecutor targets interim president with criminal probe

Venezuela's top prosecutor targets interim president with criminal probe
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Venezuela’s chief prosecutor on Tuesday opened an investigation into opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaidó.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab also asked the Supreme Court, which is stacked with Maduro loyalists, to prevent Guaidó from leaving the country and block his bank accounts, according to the Associated Press.

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Saab did not say what hate crimes Guaidó is being investigated for, but said the inquiry is linked to unrest following Guaidó’s decision to declare himself interim president.

The move is the latest development in an escalating crisis in Venezuela as Maduro and Guaidó fight over the country’s leadership.

The U.S. and other countries have recognized Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela's National Assembly, as Venezuela’s interim president as pressure mounts on President Nicolás Maduro to step aside.

Canada, the Organization of American States, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia have joined the U.S.

However, Maduro, has vowed to hold on to power.

The Trump administration has called for Maduro to leave office, calling him a dictator whose policies have led to food and medicine shortages in the country and violence against opposition groups.

White House national security adviser John Bolton reiterated Tuesday that "there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido." 

Maduro was sworn in for a second six-year term earlier this month but much of the international community, including the U.S., declared his election illegitimate.

The White House announced Monday it was implementing new sanctions against Venezuela's state-owned oil company in an attempt to ramp up pressure on the strongman.

“The United States is holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said. “We will continue to use of our diplomatic and economic tools to support interim President Guaidó, the national assembly and the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore their democracy.” 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS sanctions Venezuelan bank after Guaidó aide's arrest The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game 2020 Dems avoid this year's AIPAC conference MORE also called on the international community last week at the United Nations to support Guaidó.

“The time is now to support the Venezuelan people, to recognize the new democratic government led by interim President Guaidó and end this nightmare. No excuses,” Pompeo told the United Nations Security Council. 

“And now it’s time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.”

The leadership struggle has led to street demonstrations, with the State Department saying Tuesday that Americans should avoid traveling to Venezuela.

Updated: 2:35 p.m.