02:32 - Source: CNN
Understanding Venezuela's political crisis
(CNN) —  

Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim leader, Juan Guaidó, has called on British authorities to prevent President Nicolas Maduro from removing any of the country’s gold held in the UK’s central bank as the country’s political crisis continues to deepen.

Guaido said government officials loyal to Maduro were attempting to sell off its foreign gold reserves in the UK and relocate the profits to the central bank of Venezuela, Reuters reported.

“I am writing to ask you to stop this illegitimate transaction,” Guaido wrote in letters sent to British Prime Minister Theresa May and Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England. “If the money is transferred … it will be used by the illegitimate and kleptocratic regime of Nicolas Maduro to repress and brutalize the Venezuelan people.”

A few days earlier, Bloomberg reported that the UK central bank had stopped Maduro’s officials from withdrawing $1.2 billion in gold. Citing unnamed sources, the report said the gold is a significant part of $8 billion in foreign reserves held by the Venezuelan central bank.

CNN has not been able to independently verify the report and is attempting to get a response from Maduro’s officials.

These are the countries that support Guaido

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Ecuador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

The Bank of England said Saturday that it provides gold custody services to a large number of customers, but it does not comment on those relationships.

“In all its operations, the Bank observes the highest standards of risk management and abides by all relevant legislation, including applicable financial sanctions,” it said in a statement.

The United States, along with growing number of Western nations and regional neighbors including the UK, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, have recognized Guaido as acting president.

Meanwhile, Russia, China and Cuba, among others, are backing Maduro, claiming Guaido’s actions are directed toward a military coup in Venezuela.

Showdown between sparring leaders?

On Saturday, European leaders in the UK, France, Germany and Spain gave Maduro an ultimatum to call free elections within the next eight days, saying if this didn’t happen, they would shift their recognition to Guaido.

According to the report, which cites unnamed people familiar with the matter, the gold is a significant part of the $8 billion in foreign reserves held by the Venezuelan central bank.

“Nobody gives us an ultimatum, Maduro said. “All of Europe is bowing down to Donald Trump. It’s that simple, especially when it comes to Venezuela.”

The Venezuelan leader argued that Venezuela has held numerous elections of late – including presidential elections in May, which the US and several Latin American nations did not recognize as legitimate.

Speaking to the Turkish broadcaster, Maduro alleged that the US orchestrated a coup to remove him and accused Guaido of violating “all laws.”

During the interview, Maduro declined to directly respond when asked if he would meet with Guaido, but confirmed he was “up for dialogue” with “all the political opposition”.

The move by the Bank of England came after top U.S. officials urged the British government to help cut off Maduro’s access to his country’s assets, the report said, and instead steer them towards opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has claimed the presidency.

In a video posted to Twitter on Sunday, Guaido urged the people of Venezuela to peacefully take to the streets on Wednesday in opposition to Maduro’s presidency. He also asked the people to join him for a second protest next Saturday, where he called for support from within Venezuela and throughout the world.

CNN’s Rob Picheta and Simon Cullen contributed to this report.