06:08 GMT26 January 2021
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    Venezuelan prosecutors said Friday they would charge opposition leader Juan Guaido with "high treason" for planning to renounce the country's claim to a disputed border area controlled by Guyana.

    Guaido, the National Assembly speaker who proclaimed himself the interim president, is being investigated for negotiating to renounce "the historical claim our country has on the territory of Esequibo," Attorney General Tarek William Saab told reporters.

    "We have initiated an investigation," Saab said at a televised press conference, of Guaido's involvement “in an illegal negotiation behind the country's back that intends to withdraw the historical claim our country has on the territory of Esequibo,” adding that “the facts imply a crime of treason.”

    State prosecutors successfully petitioned the country's Constituent Assembly to lift Guaido's parliamentary immunity in April. Aside from treason, he already faces several other charges, including one of "usurping the functions of the president." While the United States, the European Union and the majority of Latin American countries recognise Guaido, Russia, China, Turkey, Iran and a number of other nations view Maduro as the only legitimate president of Venezuela. He remains free, continuing to rally support against President Nicolas Maduro. 

    Maduro also appeared on television on Thursday to call on prosecutors to file treason charges on Guaido for allegedly plotting to hand over Esequibo to multinational companies, including Exxon Mobil.

    The current case is based on audio recordings which allegedly involve a US administration official urging an advisor to Guaido to "deliver the Esequibo" to Exxon Mobil and other multinationals, according to the prosecutors.

    Esequibo is a resource-rich 159,000 square kilometre territory, which has been disputed between Guyana and Venezuela since the 19th century. The dispute escalated in 2015 after a "significant" oil discovery announced by Exxon Mobil.


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    Guyana, Exxon Mobil, Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, Juan Guaido
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