CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Venezuelan government on Thursday said it has barred opposition leader Juan Guaido from holding public office for 15 years, though the National Assembly leader responded soon afterward that he would continue his campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
The announcement by state comptroller Elvis Amoroso, a close ally of Maduro, cited alleged irregularities in the financial records of Guaido and reflected a tightening of government pressure on an opposition movement backed by the United States and dozens of other countries.
“We’re going to continue in the streets,” Guaido said soon after Amoroso’s statements on state television.
The power struggle between Maduro and Guaido has intensified the sense of crisis in Venezuela, which suffered its worst blackouts earlier this month and then another round of power outages that paralyzed commerce this week.
Both the opposition and the government plan demonstrations on Saturday as they try to project resolve in a debilitating standoff in what was once one of Latin America’s wealthiest countries. More than three million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years, escaping dire economic conditions that left many without adequate food or medicine.
Maduro, who is backed by Russia, says he is the target of a U.S.-led coup plot.
Venezuelan authorities this month arrested Guaido’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, and accused him of involvement in a “terrorist” scheme to overthrow the government.
The United States was the first nation to recognize Guaido as interim president, asserting that Maduro’s re-election last year was illegitimate. It has stepped up sanctions and other diplomatic measures in the hopes of forcing him to give up power.