Mexico City, Mexico, April 25, 2023 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaidó fled to the United States after “illegally” entering Colombia.
On Monday evening, Guaidó posted a video aboard an airplane claiming he had been “expelled.” However, Colombian officials denied his claim, asserting that he had not been forcibly removed, that he was accompanied by US agents and that he already had a plane ticket bound for Miami.
“Mr. Guaidó was not expelled, Mr. Guaidó had an agreement to travel to the US. We allowed it for humanitarian reasons despite his illegal entry into the country,” Colombian President Gustavo Petro posted on his Twitter account.
Guaidó’s surprise arrival to Colombia threatened to derail Petro’s international conference on Venezuela, set to take place Tuesday, with the aim of restarting stalled talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition.
Upon his arrival in Miami, the US-backed politician stated that he and his family had been “threatened” but did not offer more details. He had recently warned that a warrant for his arrest was imminent.
The Venezuelan opposition figure has increasingly resorted to publicity stunts amidst his political downfall. He claimed he entered Colombia with the intention of meeting with representatives of international delegations participating in the summit. However, he had previously declined to participate in preparatory meetings held over the weekend with the rest of the Venezuelan opposition. Guaidó had likewise rejected Petro’s proposal, saying that there was no need for a new plan to advance dialogue because “there is already a process in place.”
Neither the Venezuelan government nor opposition are participating directly in the conference. Unnamed opposition supporters told Spanish newspaper El País that they believed Guaidó’s attempt to crash the conference was a means of “boycotting” the event.
Colombian Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva Durán clarified that his country’s migration officials were not apprised of Guaidó’s arrival in the country and were able to ascertain his location thanks to information provided by a “high ranking” US official. Leyva further specified that Guaidó’s plane ticket to Miami was provided by the United States and that US agents accompanied him throughout his time at Bogotá’s El Dorado International airport. Leyva was emphatic that Guaidó had not been expelled.
The foreign minister’s statement stood in stark contrast to Guaidó’s depiction of events, who stated he had to “evade” Venezuelan authorities as he traveled by road to Bogotá and that “persecution of the dictatorship [had] spread to Colombia.”
President Petro specified that his government offered him safe passage to the country’s capital and would have extended political asylum had he requested it.
Guaidó, who once counted on international support after proclaiming himself “interim president” of Venezuela, has widely lost favor inside his country, even losing support from the country’s hardline opposition who voted in December to end his so-called “interim presidency.”
Calling him a “coward,” high-ranking Chavista figure Diosdado Cabello said that Guaidó fled Venezuela because he had lost the support of the opposition. Despite calls from grassroots supporters of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela for Guaidó’s arrest, the country’s Attorney General did not have an arrest warrant issued for him.
His self-imposed exile from Venezuela appears to leave him out of the running for the 2024 presidential race. Venezuela’s hardline opposition parties are expected to hold a primary contest to choose a presidential candidate in October. Guaidó was set to run on the ticket of the far-right Popular Will party.
Leyva said that Guaidó’s speedy trip through Colombia was also due to the US’ interest in a successful outcome to Tuesday’s summit on Venezuela, emphasizing that the US actively assisted in his exit from Colombia. Petro recently traveled to Washington where he met directly with US President Joe Biden in the White House and where the issue of Venezuela was one of the topics of discussion. Petro is pushing for the US to lift its unilateral coercive measures against Venezuela.
The international conference on Venezuela will see some 20 delegations participate in a discussion to break the deadlock at the negotiating table between the Venezuelan government and opposition. Representatives from the United States, Europe and Latin America were invited to take part.
The international conference stems from discussions between Petro and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who gave his government’s blessing to the meeting while reiterating Caracas’ demands of sanctions relief.
The Venezuelan opposition has also backed the conference. Talks between the two sides have been frozen for months. The parties last met in Mexico City in November where the parties agreed to a US $3 billion “social fund” derived from Venezuelan money illegally seized by Washington and allies.
That money has still not yet been made available, with opposition spokespeople claiming they are still working on its release. Stalin González, who is part of the opposition negotiating team, stated that he has communicated to the Venezuelan government that the holdup is not their responsibility, suggesting that the delay is being caused by Washington.
For its part, the Venezuelan government has insisted that talks will not resume until Washington removes all economic sanctions imposed by the former Trump administration as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign. Meanwhile, Washington has said it would only lift sanctions imposed on Venezuela if there is progress in the government-opposition negotiations.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.