Maduro issues arrest warrants for opposition figures who rejected his sham referendum

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Maduro issues arrest warrants for opposition figures who rejected his sham referendum Dec 07, 2023 News The Venezuelan government, under President Nicolás Maduro, is escalating its crackdown on political dissent. Tarek William Saab, the Attorney General of the Republic, announced the issuance of arrest warrants against 14 individuals accused of conspiring against the country and its referendum for the Essequibo, held on December 3. Maduro appears to be attempting to tighten his regime’s grip on power, despite wide international scrutiny ahead of presidential elections next year. The individuals targeted include prominent opposition figures such as Jhon Goicochea, Juan Guaidó, Julio Borges, Andrés Izarra, David Smolanski, Carlos Vecchio, Lester Toledo, Savoi Jandon Wright, Leopoldo López, and Rafael Ramírez, who are primarily operating abroad. Additionally, Roberto Abdul, Henry Alviarez, Claudia Macero, and Pedro Urruchurtu, allegedly conspiring within Venezuela, are also on the list. Saab highlighted that some of these individuals are already in custody. Many of the targets are supporters of Maria Machado, the most popular opposition candidate to challenge Maduro in the election. Few of them are Machado’s aides, Bloomberg reported. The warrants could therefore weaken her presidential campaign. Guaido is the politician the United States had attempted to appoint as Venezuela’s President, in a failed bid to oust Maduro. The charges against the 14 individuals include treason, conspiracy, money laundering, and criminal association. Saab claimed international companies like ExxonMobil are involved in a conspiracy against the Venezuela government. He also accused Guyana of working with the company and the US to undermine Venezuela’s claim to the territory. Saab also said there is a protected witness providing information on the national and international aspects of the conspiracy. The financing of the alleged conspiracy is said to involve asset laundering by international organizations and companies, with transactions conducted through cryptocurrencies and large sums of cash to evade financial controls. The warrants are part of a broader pattern of the Maduro government targeting its political opponents. Notably, Machado, a presidential candidate from the opposition coalition, was barred from holding public office, along with several other opposition figures. The U.S. government has criticized these actions, threatening to reinstate recently eased sanctions if the bans on opposition candidates are not lifted. A recent press release from the US State Department indicated that an agreement was reached for the reinstatement of all candidates, but the US still expressed concerns over the ongoing detention of American nationals and Venezuelan political prisoners. Opposition candidates saw the referendum and the government’s posturing as a ploy to distract the populace from Venezuela’s troubles, including Maduro’s poor management of the country. While they believe the Essequibo region belongs to Venezuela, they disagreed with the use of a referendum, and said the government should respect the process at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in the case filed by Guyana. The international community, particularly the United States, continues to monitor the situation in Venezuela closely. Venezuela seems to have made commitments to the US that it will hold free and fair elections, but the government’s actions potentially indicate an unfolding pattern of underhanded tactics to weaken and/or disqualify its opposition ahead of the election. Carlos Vecchio, Jhon Goicochea, Juan Guaidó, Leopoldo López, Lester Toledo, Savoi Jandon Wright

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