The National Constituent Assembly, a body of lawmakers chosen in a Nicolás Maduro-controlled election widely viewed as fraudulent, stripped Interim President Juan Guaidó of immunity on Tuesday, clearing the way to eventually arrest and prosecute him.
The assembly, created in 2017, approved the motion by a show of hands instead of counting each vote. The assembly, which is known as ANC for its initials in Spanish and is comprised of 500 members, is controlled by socialist supporters in Venezuela. Its members were handpicked by the highest authorities of Maduro’s regime.
The vote came a day after the Supreme Court of Justice, another Maduro ally, introduced the motion before the ANC, accusing Guaidó of violating an order imposed Jan. 29, which banned him from leaving the country. After the order, Guaidó, head of the National Assembly, the official legislative body before the ANC, traveled to Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and other South American nations to build support for his presidency.
This is the first time the ANC suspended the constitutional immunity of a leader ahead of possible arrest. Just a few days ago, the regime arrested Guaidó’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, despite him having immunity.
Guaidó played down the ANC vote shortly after it took place.
“They will not get us out of the way, no matter what happens. What if the regime intends to kidnap us? Well, of course, we know that they only have brute force left. We know that. But we are left with audacity, intelligence, soul, strength of heart, hope and confidence in this country, in ourselves,” Guaidó told reporters in Venezuela.
“There is no turning back in this process, we are mobilized in the streets ... while we imagine ourselves free ... and while we remain mobilized, we will not lose,” said the interim president, urging the population to participate massively in Saturday’s protests.
Guaidó added that after hearing the news about his immunity, he received calls from about a dozen presidents and foreign ministers supporting him.
The National Assembly, Guaidó and a large part of the international community do not recognize the authority of the ANC and the Chavista court.
However, the Tuesday declaration is a new sign the regime is preparing to arrest Guaidó despite warnings from Washington that this step would unleash serious and immediate repercussions.
The Trump administration, which has already applied economic sanctions against the regime, has insisted that all options are on the table regarding regional efforts to help Venezuelans regain their democracy.
Supporters of Maduro didn’t hold back during the Tuesday meeting. They demanded Guaidó get reprimanded for leaving the country without requesting permission from the authorities controlled by the socialist regime. They declared that Guaidó should be punished with jail or “el paredón,” referring to a firing squad, for his behavior.
“How are traitors treated in the country? Anyone who betrays the country does not deserve to be called Venezuelan,” said María León, a member of the ANC. “With removing the immunity, I agree. But it’s too little. I would say there be sanctions.”
León proposed in her speech the creation of popular courts throughout the country to try traitors. Her suggestion was received by other constituents chanting “paredón,” or firing squad, for Guaidó.
The mention of popular courts brought to mind those used during the bloody first months of the Cuban revolution, a period that inspired the Chavez regime.
The historical reference led U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, to speak out on Twitter.
“Just like in Cuba after Castro took over members of illegitimate Maduro Regime Congress are calling for the execution of Guaidó by firing squad,” the Republican wrote.
Prior to the ANC vote, one of its members, Gilberto Pinto, told reporters: “A resort called Tocorón is awaiting for Guaidó,” in reference to a prison for Venezuelan criminals considered one of the most dangerous in the hemisphere.