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Venezuelan authorities issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader and former interim President Juan Guaido this week, a move that critics say is another attempt to crush the opposition ahead of next year’s elections, CNN reported.

Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab accused Guaido of misusing state-owned oil company resources, saying the opposition leader “caused losses to the nation of $19 billion.” The arrest warrant also includes other charges, such as treason, usurpation of functions and money laundering.

Guaido, who is currently residing in Miami, denied the allegations and challenged President Nicolas Maduro to face justice himself.

A former president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Guaido proclaimed himself as the country’s “interim president” in January 2019 after challenging the re-election of Maduro in 2018, Agence France-Presse noted.

He initially received international support and launched a series of mass demonstrations to oust Maduro. However, his attempts failed to remove the president. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan opposition voted last year to formally end his position as acting president.

The recent charges underscore the ongoing political turmoil in the oil-rich South American country, where the government seeks to consolidate power and weaken the opposition.

The country is scheduled to hold a presidential election in 2024, but concerns about the fairness and transparency of the electoral process persist amid a repressive political climate.

Meanwhile, the United States – a staunch supporter of Guaido – has softened its stance toward Caracas in light of regional turmoil caused by a surge of Venezuelan refugees and inflation.

In a significant policy shift, the US government announced the resumption of deportations of Venezuelans directly to Venezuela in an effort to address the record number of border crossings at the US-Mexico border.

Guaido has called this move part of Maduro’s strategy to gain international recognition as Venezuela’s head of state. At the same time, he says that addressing the root causes of migration, such as restoring democracy in Venezuela, is essential to resolving the migration crisis.

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