Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido distanced himself from allegations of corruption against his allies on Sunday, in the latest blow to his faltering efforts to oust President Nicolas Maduro from office.
Venezuelan investigative website Armando.info had earlier in the day published a report claiming that nine pro-Guaido MPs intervened on behalf of a Colombian businessman linked to a subsidized food aid program known as CLAP.
Businessman Carlos Lizcano reportedly worked for fellow Colombian Alex Nain Saab Moran and his business partner Alvaro Pulido, who were among a group of people sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in July for running a "corruption network" that profited off of emergency food imports meant for CLAP.
Armando.info reported that a group of opposition MPs allegedly contacted Colombian and American authorities to ask them to show leniency towards Lizcano, claiming he had nothing to do with Saab and Pulido's illegal activities.
"Corruption cannot be tolerated," Guaido said at a press conference Sunday evening. He added that the nine MPs in question had been suspended and placed under investigation.
The Armando.info report is the latest setback for Guaido, the head of Venezuela's opposition-dominated National Assembly, who has thus far failed to capitalize on early momentum built after he rejected Maduro's re-election as fraudulent and in January declared himself the crisis-wracked country's acting president.
Last week he dismissed Humberto Calderon Berti, his diplomatic representative in Colombia, whose government has backed the Venezuelan opposition.
Berti then accused opposition envoys of improperly using funds meant to help 148 Venezuelan soldiers who had deserted to Colombia in February.
He said the Colombian government gave him documents showing the money had instead been spent on "prostitutes, alcohol and other abuses," muddling Guaido's claims to be standing against corruption in Maduro's government
Venezuela is in the midst of its worst economic and social crisis in recent history, suffering from severe shortages of power and resources, as well as crippling US sanctions.
More than 50 countries, including the US and Brazil, have recognized Guaido as Venezuela's acting leader.