Venezuelan authorities have barred a key opposition leader from public office for 15 years amid rising political tensions in the Latin American state.
Henrique Capriles is the current governor of the northern state of Miranda and a former presidential candidate.
State comptroller Manuel Galindo on Friday imposed a “sanction of disqualification from exercising public office for a period of 15 years,” his institution said in a ruling made public by Capriles himself.
The ban was issued due to the “administrative irregularities” during Capriles’ term as governor of Miranda.
The opposition figure, however defied the ruling, saying he would retain his post as a governor.
Socialist Party official Freddy Bernal had slammed Capriles, one of the leaders of this week’s anti-government demonstrations, for inciting protests and “looking for a few deaths to set the country alight.”
The ruling bans Capriles from running in the presidential election due next year.
Capriles can appeal his ruling at the comptroller’s office within two weeks. He has also six months to ask for its annulment at the Supreme Court.
The sanction comes ahead of an opposition protest planned for Saturday. The demonstration would be the latest in a string of violent marches that was sparked by the Supreme Court’s ruling to annul the legislature.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled that the National Assembly was in “contempt” and annulled its legislative powers.
However, it reversed its ruling on April 1 after Maduro asked the judicial body to review the decision.
Venezuela, which has the world’s highest inflation rate, is facing severe shortages of food, medicine, and basic household goods after a slump in global oil prices. The country is also grappling with a high unemployment rate.
Maduro blames the economic crisis a US-sponsored ploy, which according to him is aimed at destabilizing the country.
The opposition has been calling for the resignation of Maduro, who was elected in 2013 for a six-year term. There have been protests for and against the Venezuelan president in recent months.
Venezuela’s opposition has also been demanding a recall referendum against Maduro, who was elected in 2013 for a six-year term.