Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice banned the self-declared president Juan Guaido from leaving the country and froze his bank accounts Tuesday January 29th, as leader Nicolas Maduro sought after neutralizing the American-backed opposition chief, AFP reported on Wednesday January 30th.
High court president Maikel Moreno said that the 35-year-old head of the National Assembly legislature "is prohibited from leaving the country until the end of the (preliminary) investigation" for having "caused harm to peace in the republic."
The court is filled with Maduro loyalists.
The move came after the State Department revealed that Guaido has been handed control of Venezuela's US bank accounts.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on the order last week, followed on Monday by US sanctions targeting Venezuela's state oil giant PDVSA, the cash-strapped government's main source of hard currency.
State Department spokesman Robert Palladino justified the ruling in a statement saying: "This certification will help Venezuela's legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.”
Guaido derided Maduro's efforts to choke his progress by saying "nothing new."
"I'm not dismissing the threats, the persecution at this time, but we're here, we're continuing to do our jobs," he told reporters as he arrived at the National Assembly.
Guaido, who has been recognised as Venezuela’s interim president by US President Donald Trump, warned the country's top court on Twitter saying "the regime is in its final stage."
"You shouldn't sacrifice yourselves for the usurper and his gang," he added.
Trump's national security advisor John Bolton warned of "serious consequences" if any harm comes to the Venezuelan opposition leader.”
"Let me reiterate - there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido," Bolton tweeted.
Meanwhile, the opposition-controlled legislature named "diplomatic representatives" to a dozen countries that, like the US, have recognised Guaido as the interim president.
US Vice President Mike Pence met with Guaido's appointed charge d'affaires in the United States, Carlos Vecchio, at the White House to discuss the crisis.
The 35-year-old engineer stormed onto the political stage as a virtual unknown on January 3rd, when he was sworn in as the president of the National Assembly, a body that had been largely neutralized by the Supreme Court.
On January 23rd, he declared himself the country's acting president, vowing to lead a transitional government that would hold democratic elections.
Guaido has called for two more mass demonstrations against the government this week to keep up the pressure, and also appealed to the powerful military to change sides, offering amnesty to those who do.
The UN human rights office in Geneva reported the death of 40 people in clashes with security forces nationwide and at least 850 arrested since January 21st when a brief military rebellion was put down in Caracas.
Maduro, 56, blamed Trump for the clashes, saying he [Trump] would have "blood all over his hands" if violence breaks out in Venezuela.
In a tweet, he urged the opposition to "ignore the imperialist calls" reiterating his offer of dialogue to Guaido. He has previously accused the US of trying to orchestrate a coup d'etat.
Gustavo Tarre, Venezuela's new pro-Guaido representative to the Organization of American States, rejected the coup accusation, doubting Maduro’s stay in power. “No one would defend him to the death,” he said.
The oil-rich country is suffering from a deep economic crisis that has pushed millions into poverty and driven 2.3 million more to migrate.
Hyperinflation, shortages of food and medicine and failing public services has spread misery, undermining support for a leftist regime that has held power for two decades.
Trump’s advisor Bolton called Monday for Venezuela's security forces "to accept the peaceful, democratic and constitutional transfer of power," reiterating Trump's position that "all options are on the table."
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan did not rule out a US military deployment to Colombia.
Six European nations including Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain have said they would follow suit unless Maduro calls elections by February 3rd. However, Russia opposed the US sanctions, backing Maduro’s stance, China as well.