Guaido Says He’s Returning to Venezuela, Despite Arrest Threat

epa07319253 People listen to the Parliament and self-proclaimed president in charge of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, during a public event with deputies in a square in the east of Caracas, Venezuela, 25 January 2018. Guaido called today a new mobilization next week and two other activities this weekend against the government of Nicolas Maduro, which he considers illegitimate. EPA-EFE/Miguel GutiÈrrez

Juan Guaido’s party said the Venezuelan rival president is coming home for marches in the capital on Monday, risking arrest in his bid to end six of years of rule by Nicolas Maduro that have led the nation into poverty and revolt.

“All to the streets, beside our president Juan Guaido for his arrival at Caracas,” read an invitation on Sunday issued by his party.

It’s unclear how and when Guaido will return, or whether Maduro’s forces will arrest him for violating a travel ban, as threatened. Guaido secretly left Venezuela in February, at first to oversee a delivery of aid provided by the U.S., which has led calls for governments to recognize him as interim president until an election can be held.

That delivery attempt, from Colombia and Brazil, ended in confrontations between supporters of Guaido and forces loyal to Maduro, including the army and paramilitary groups. Several people died and hundreds were wounded when Maduro’s forces opened fire and beat demonstrators, blocking the food and medicine piled at the border.

Last week, Guaido met U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Bogota, then traveled to Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador to meet leaders of those countries. They all back his push to depose Maduro, who is widely considered to have stolen elections last year.

While the 35-year-old opposition leader had received an invitation to visit Peru as part of the regional tour, he told reporters in Ecuador on Saturday he would instead return home.

“I announce my return to the country and call on marches across the country for Monday and Tuesday,” Guaido said on Twitter late Saturday.

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On Sunday, he sent a tweet thanking Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno along a picture of him on what appeared to be an airport tarmac. The Ecuadoran president’s office said that Guaido had boarded a plane, without saying where he was flying.

While Guaido has received much foreign backing since taking an oath in front of supporters on Jan. 23, his position inside the country is less firm. A quick flip of the military hasn’t materialized. Meanwhile, the U.S. has doubled down on financial and oil sanctions that will crimp Maduro’s access to hard currency.

Russia, China and Turkey still back the socialist government, though future financial support from those countries is a question mark and will be key to Maduro’s staying power. DM


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