Venezuela bars Guaido from holding public office for 15 years

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Guaido, who heads the National Assembly, immediately dismissed this new prohibition announced on state television by Maduro's Auditor General Elvis Amoroso as invalid.

Mr. Guaido, who was elected to the assembly in 2015, has taken 90 worldwide trips without accounting for the origin of the estimated US$94,000 in expenses, Mr.

Maduro has accused the United States of trying to orchestrate a coup in order to install Guaido as a puppet leader beholden to Washington.

Guaido is now the head of the congress, which Maduro's government has refused to recognize since 2016 when the opposition took it over after a landslide election victory.

The announcement also prompted a withering response from Washington, where State Department spokesman Robert Palladino described the move in a brief remark as 'ridiculous'.

European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini is in Quito, Ecuador, for a second ministerial meeting between European Union and Latin American countries, aimed at helping deliver emergency humanitarian assistance, as well as helping to create conditions for a peace process to emerge, by holding free and transparent elections.

"Such a political decision without regard to due process is yet another demonstration of the arbitrary nature of judicial procedures in the country", said the International Contact Group on Venezuela. "All actions and gestures that further escalate tensions will only create obstacles to a peaceful, democratic and Venezuelan-owned resolution to this crisis", Commission spokesperson Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela said.

The power struggle between Mr.

"It's a moment of happiness in the middle of this tragedy, to see that my card worked", Caracas resident Maria Isabel Vera said after buying medicine in a pharmacy.

Electricty returned to most cities on Thursday following the blackout - the second major one in less than a month. More than 3 million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years, escaping dire economic conditions that left many without adequate food or medicine.

The US-backed opposition leader was not, however, intimidated by the lengthy ban, calling his supporters to stage more protests.

"If their idea is to keep Maduro in power for longer that means more people starving and fleeing the country, more human tragedy in Venezuela", the minister said.

However, internationally, Maduro has been weakened by Guaido's rise to lead the previously fractured opposition and his endorsement as interim leader by most Western countries and big Latin American nations.

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