The communist Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro ordered the arrest of several opposition politicians who had close ties to presidential candidate María Corina Machado, earlier this month ADN has learned.
The arrests stem from the Maduro regime’s heightened concerns about internal dissent amid the brewing tensions with its neighbor Guyana after Venezuela held a referendum over its claim to the oil-rich Essequibo region.
According to reports, Maduro ally Attorney-General Tarek William Saab accused the politicians of trying to sabotage the referendum vote, which came back overwhelmingly in favor of Venezuela’s long held position it has property rights over the region.
The head of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Elvis Amoroso, reported that 10.4 million Venezuelans voted, more than 50% of the country’s eligible voters.
Opposition leaders have questioned the results and turnout however, since the regime has a history of rigging votes by withholding food rations from voters if they do not fill out a ballot that lines up with the objectives of Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
Critics have also pointed out that the Essequibo referendum was suspiciously launched amid Maduro’s loss in popularity as Machado’s united front has begun to close in on him.
The referendum, many believe was a desperate attempt on behalf of the Venezuelan dictator to spark a nationalist war cry and bond with the people over a common enemy as a distraction to their rising calls for free and fair elections.
Arrest warrants were issued earlier this month for three members of María Corina Machado’s team. Machado is currently widely considered the opposition’s new unity candidate for next year’s 2024 presidential election.
Additional warrants were even issued for renowned opposition politicians living in exile, including Juan Guaidó who is now teaching at Florida International University in Miami.
The attorney general also issued warrants for Carlos Vecchio, David Smolanski, Julio Borges, and Leopoldo López.
Saab issued indictments for 14 opposition members, accusing them of “involvement in a conspiracy to sabotage the Venezuelan people’s fight for Essequibo,” which his office says was supported by money “laundered by international organizations and foreign companies like Exxon Mobil.”
In a televised announcement, Maduro called the situation a “transnational conspiracy” being financed by Americans and Exxon Mobile.
While the conflict over the oil-rich Essequibo region started as early as 1899 and continued throughout contestation amid the 20th century in international courts such as the ICJ, Maduro did not take too much interest until 2015 when Exxon Mobil discovered oil in Guyana in Essequibo’s offshore waters.
Guyana then granted oil exploration licenses to the U.S. based multinational drilling company.
The matter has been languishing in the International Court of Justice in The Hague for several years, but Venezuela refuses to acknowledge that the ICJ has jurisdiction.
Maduro met with Guyanese President Irfaan Ali last week in Grenadines at the urging of the Caribbean Community, known popularly as CARICOM.
The two leaders shook hands and vowed to resolve the dispute without violence after both Brazil deployed it troops to its border with Venezuela and the U.S. began Air Force drills with Guyana as a showing of force against the communist regime.
Essequibo is an oil-rich area of the South American jungle administered by Guyana.
The 61,600-square-mile) region makes up two-thirds of the total of the land currently governed by Guyana and is home to 125,000 of Guyana’s 800,000 citizens.