CARACAS (Dispatches) -- Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared an illegitimate body by the government in Caracas, has authorized its leader Juan Guaido to take control of millions of assets frozen outside the Latin American country as a result of U.S. sanctions against President Nicolas Maduro.
The authorization issued on Thursday would enable Guaido to establish a trust overseen by the Organization of American States to take control of around $80 million U.S.-based accounts belonging to the top Venezuelan officials and the state oil companies.
The law authorizing the move is claimed to allocate the seized cash to social expenses in the South American country, which is suffering shortages of basic necessities following Washington-imposed sanctions aimed at pressuring Maduro to resign.
The 57-year-old leader announced earlier this month that he would file a lawsuit against the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump over the economic damages to his country due to unilateral U.S. sanctions against Venezuela.
Maduro said Washington’s sanctions, which include the illegal confiscation of Venezuelan assets abroad and an economic blockade, have caused enormous suffering for millions of people in the Latin American country.
The Venezuelan leader added that the lawsuit is one of several legal actions his country is taking to confront what he describes as the US’s economic war to bring down his government.
Guaido is considered responsible for causing a political crisis in Venezuela when he unilaterally declared himself "interim president” of the country in January last year, rejecting the outcome of the May 2018 election, which Maduro had won. Guaido also later launched an abortive coup against the elected government.
Guaido’s self-proclamation as president and his coup received full support from Washington. Caracas has said election results must be respected, but has shown lenience and refrained from arresting Guaido over the coup.
The U.S. has imposed several rounds of sanctions against the oil-rich South American country aimed at ousting Maduro and replacing him with Guaido.