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Maduro Government Bans Guaido From Holding Office for 15 Years

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom many nations have recognized as the country's rightful interim ruler, sings the national anthem during a meeting about water and electricity systems in Caracas, Venezuela, March 28, 2019.

The Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro said Thursday that it had stripped opposition leader Juan Guaido of the right to hold public office for 15 years, a sharp escalation of the political unrest in the South American country.

But soon after the announcement on state television, Guaido said, "We're going to continue in the streets" to protest Maduro's hold on power.

Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly, is recognized by the U.S. and 50 other countries as the nation's interim president, but Maduro has clung to power amid power blackouts, street demonstrations led by Guaido, widespread poverty and frequent condemnation of his rule from world leaders.

The political ban against Guaido was announced by Auditor General Elvis Amoroso. He said Guaido, who invoked the country's constitution in January to assume the interim presidency, had inconsistencies in his personal financial disclosures and was spending more than his income would seem to allow.

Guaido has said he expects continued efforts by Maduro to try to block him from assuming outright control of the government.

The United Nations has estimated that about a quarter of Venezuelans need humanitarian assistance, including food and basic services.

Maduro, who is backed by Russia, has said no crisis exists and blames U.S. sanctions for the country's moribund economy.

Russia sent about 100 military personnel to Venezuela last weekend and 35 tons of cargo in support of Maduro. Moscow has ignored U.S. demands that it send the servicemen back home.