Venezuela’s chief prosecutor is seeking a court order to ban opposition leader Juan Guaido from leaving the South American nation, launching a criminal probe into his anti-government activities.
Attorney General Tarek William Saab also asked the government-stacked Supreme Court on Tuesday to block Guaido’s financial accounts.
He did not specify what crimes the 35-year-old opposition leader is being investigated for, only claiming the probe is tied to the unrest sparked by his decision last week to declare himself interim head of state.
Later Tuesday, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton denounced on Twtter the actions by the "illegitimate" Venezuelan attorney general, saying "there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guiado."
Saab’s requests appear to be a bid to silence Guaido, who has given a series of interviews with members of the foreign press in the days after his emphatic declaration last Wednesday.
“I am the only legitimate president of Venezuela,” the 35-year-old told broadcaster ARD. “There was no election in 2018. Maduro’s term in office is over so he is unlawfully in office and is governing as a dictator.”
He is scheduled to sit down with Fox Business’ Trish Regan on “Fox Business Tonight” on Tuesday.
The move also comes as international pressure mounts against disputed socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who has been accused by most western nations of conducting illegitimate elections last year, in part because his strongest opponents were barred from running.
The United States, which led more than a dozen countries in recognizing Guaido’s claim to the presidency, announced Tuesday it had handed control over Venezuela's U.S. bank accounts to Guaido. Russia announced it expects Venezuela to have problems paying its debts.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified that Guaido has the authority to take control of bank accounts that Venezuela's government has in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other U.S.-insured banks.
Pompeo said the certification will "help Venezuela's legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people."
The Pentagon also said Tuesday that it would not rule out sending U.S. military forces to Colombia or the region in connection with the ongoing political upheaval in Venezuela.
"We're monitoring the situation very carefully and we're watching and we're working very much in real time," Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said. "The interagency led by the National Security Council and ambassador Bolton created a number of options. We support them with their policy development, and, as the situation in Venezuela evolves, we're there to give them advice and counsel and support."
White House officials confirmed to Fox News that the note was related to the ongoing crisis in the South American country.
Maduro accuses the United States of leading an open coup to oust him and exploit Venezuela's oil reserves, the largest in the world.
Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, and Paraguay have also officially acknowledged Guaido as the legitimate interim head of Venezuela, while countries including Russia and China back Maduro.
Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak told Russian state news agencies Tuesday "there will probably be problems" for Venezuela in paying its debts.
Storchak said Venezuela owes Russia $3 billion, with repayments twice a year of around $100 million, with the next due in March. Russia also has extensive commercial interests in Venezuela, including state oil company Rosneft's partnership with Petroleos de Venezuela SA, which was placed under U.S. sanctions Monday.
The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, issued an advisory telling Americans should not travel to Venezuela and warned of the unrest and the threat of being arbitrarily arrested.
The travel advisory warns of the threat of kidnapping, robberies and mass demonstrations occurring with little notice. The announcement raises the travel advisory to its highest level, putting Venezuela on a no-travel list that also includes Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and South Sudan.
The U.S. embassy in Caracas has been cleared of everybody but essential staff.
The United Nations human rights office said Tuesday that more than 40 people have died and some 850 people, including at least 77 minors, have been detained since anti-government demonstrations erupted last week.