Venezuelan state media attacked President Juan Guaidó on Monday after he called for an investigation into claims two of his subordinates embezzled money meant for the housing and feeding of Venezuelan military defectors.
Guaidó legally became president of Venezuela in January. Dictator Nicolás Maduro remains in control of the military, however, as well as the presidential palace and state media.
The allegations broke last week after the Latin American news outlet the PanAm Post reported that two of Guaidó’s government officials, Rossana Barrera and Kevin Rojas, had allegedly used funds intended to cover the cost of the troops’ hotels in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta for personal purchases.
Both of the accused are senior members of Popular Will, the socialist political party to which Guaidó belongs, whom Guaidó personally appointed to control funds meant to aid soldiers who ceased to take orders from Maduro and fled to Cúcuta. The Post cited unnamed Colombian intelligence officials as the sources for their claim.
“We will investigate this deeply,” Guaido said during a speech to supporters in the state of Mérida this weekend. “Every cent of public funds should be sacred, and that is something we have to learn as a society.”
The Maduro regime quickly weaponized the scandal. Maduro Communication Minister Jorge Rodríguez accused Guaidó’s camp of spending an additional $800,000 on private aircraft in February as they were trying to organize the entry of humanitarian aid into the country.
“This is the photo of Camilo Daza airport in Cúcuta on the afternoon of February 22nd. On plane hire alone, the far-right spent more than $800,000 that day,” he wrote. “Where did the money come from? From the money Venezuela needs to operate our children.”
Rodríguez did not corroborate his claim with any evidence, save for a photo of the alleged plane.
Sigo: Esta es la foto del aeropuerto Camilo Daza de Cúcuta la tarde del 22 de Febrero. Solo en alquiler de aviones la ultraderecha se gastó ese día más de 800 mil dólares. De donde salió la plata? Del dinero que necesita Venezuela para operar nuestras niñas y niños. Las siglas: pic.twitter.com/uHZSo9UmK2
— Jorge Rodríguez (@jorgerpsuv) June 17, 2019
On Monday, Rodríguez also suggested that the U.S. Department of Justice should open a probe into the board of the U.S.-based Venezuelan oil refinery Citgo for its role in allowing Guaidó’s government to take control of the company. Last month, Maduro personally accused Juan Guaidó of stealing the company’s profits for personal use.
“Mr. Juan Guaidó, acting together with imperialism [the United States], has stolen Citgo from us,” Maduro said during a live Periscope broadcast last month. “And I am asking, what have they done with the money? Where is the Citgo money? They have stolen the Citgo money from us. And the products meant for our oil refineries were stolen from us, too,” Maduro said.
The range of allegations against Guaidó’s entourage will likely further disappoint the Venezuelan people, many of whom believed that he was the man to remove the Maduro from power and begin a transition to democracy. Since his appointment in January by the National Assembly as the country’s interim president, Guaidó has failed to wrench control of the military from the socialist regime.
Guaidó’s team has recently engaged in several rounds of negotiations with the regime in Sweden and Norway, despite widespread opposition to them doing so. However, such talks have ended without agreement after the Maduro regime repeatedly refused to hold any free elections in the near future.