Venezuela’s opposition figurehead, Juan Guaidó, has made a dramatic return to his homeland, flying into Caracas in the hope of injecting new life into his campaign to unseat Nicolás Maduro. “We will keep pushing forwards, without fear,” Guaidó told reporters after landing at the Simón Bolívar international airport to the north of the capital. Outside,…
Venezuela’s opposition figurehead, Juan Guaidó, has made a dramatic return to his homeland, flying into Caracas in the hope of injecting new life into his campaign to unseat Nicolás Maduro.
“We will keep pushing forwards, without fear,” Guaidó told reporters after landing at the Simón Bolívar international airport to the north of the capital.
Outside, he was greeted by cheering crowds of supporters who chanted:“¡Sí se puede!’”(“Yes we can!”).
On the eve of Guaidó’s arrival,Washington warned Maduro he would face a “strong and significant response” if his rival, Juan Guaidó, was detained or threatened as he tried to re-enter Venezuela to join a day of fresh protests.
Guaidó sneaked out of Venezuela on the eve of a failed attempt to force humanitarian aid into the economically ravaged country on 23 February and subsequently set off on a five-country tour of South America.
The 35-year-old visited Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay despite a travel ban introduced after his decision to challenge Maduro.
Most western governments now recognise Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president but, beyond widespread popular support, he enjoys little concrete power in Venezuela.
An expected wave of military defections that would force Maduro from power has yet to materialise, although Colombia says more than 600 officials have fled across the border in recent days.
In an online broadcast on Sunday night, Guaidó urged followers not to lose hope and called a new round of nationwide street protests for Monday morning to coincide with his attempt to return home. “This process is unstoppable,” he insisted of the struggle to unseat Maduro. “The transition is already under way.”
Guaidó did not say exactly how he would try to enter Venezuela, or at what time, but warned that if Maduro’s “regime” tried to seize him, it would be “the last mistake” it made.
Donald Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, tweeted: “Any threats or acts against his safe return will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community.”
The British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, tweeted: “The Maduro regime MUST ensure his freedom and safety. The world is watching.”
The Venezuelan news website El Pitazo reported that security around and in the skies above the Simón Bolívar international airport near Caracas had been stepped up in case Guaidó tried to land there.
In an interview with the Guardian in Caracas last month Guaidó admitted it was possible his challenge to Maduro could condemn him to exile, or prison – or worse. “Doing politics in Venezuela is a risk and you can pay with your life.”