Guaido Returns to Venezuela amid US Threats Against Maduro

Despite entering Venezuela without obstruction, Guaido made no announcements of concrete next steps in his effort to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

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Juan Guaido transits Caracas’ Simon Bolivar International Airport. (EFE)
Juan Guaido transits Caracas’ Simon Bolivar International Airport. (EFE)
By Lucas Koerner & Paul Dobson
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Caracas, March 4, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido touched down in Caracas’ Simon Bolivar International Airport Monday afternoon following visits to several neighboring countries in previous days.

Despite official warnings that he would be arrested for violating a Supreme Court-ordered travel ban, the self-proclaimed “interim president” successfully went through airport customs before proceeding to attend an anti-government rally in eastern Caracas. A number of ambassadors and consuls of those countries which have recognised him as Venezuela’s head of state, including representatives of Germany, France, Chile, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania, received him at the airport.

“Entering Venezuela as free citizens, no one can say anything to the contrary. Now I can feel the sun of my Guaira, the expectation of the people who await us here,” he tweeted upon arrival.

Speaking to supporters gathered in Alfredo Sadel Plaza in Caracas’ upper middle class Las Mercedes district, Guaido announced meetings on Tuesday with unions representing public sector employees, whom he said were “kidnapped” by the Maduro government. He also promised an “important announcement” slated for Tuesday and convened his followers to take to the streets in renewed anti-government demonstrations on Saturday.

Guaido also offered a balance of February 23, when he led an attempt to force US-delivered humanitarian “aid” into Venezuela, describing the initiative as “unsuccessful.” He went on to blame Venezuela’s armed forces for the failure, complaining that they neglected to “do their part.”

Nonetheless, the president of the opposition-held National Assembly reassured the crowd in Las Mercedes that “we are doing well,” telling supporters that “change” is on the way. “I will give my all until we achieve freedom,” he pledged.

Guaido did not, however, offer specific details regarding when and how he plans to oust President Nicolas Maduro and take up office in Miraflores Presidential Palace. His speech coincided with medium-sized opposition rallies in different regions of the country, which according to on-the-ground reports, saw small pockets of street violence in some cities, such as Merida. No injuries have thus far been reported.

On January 29, Venezuela’s Supreme Court issued a travel ban against Guaido pending an ongoing investigation carried out by the Public Prosecution for usurpation of presidential powers amongst other offenses. The opposition lawmaker does, nevertheless, continue to enjoy parliamentary immunity, and his legal status remains unclear.

Venezuelan analyst Victor Hugo Majano from investigative blog La Tabla pointed out on Twitter that no arrest warrant has been issued Guaido, which coupled with his parliamentary immunity means he can freely enter and leave the country.

“To determine whether his defiance of the Supreme Court order forbidding him to leave the country represents obstruction of justice an investigation from the Public Prosecution would need to take place,” Majano added.

Guaido’s foreign trip included visits to Colombia, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador, where he met with the respective presidents of each country. He was accompanied on the trip by his wife, Fabiana Rosales, his political team, as well as US Under-Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Kimberly Breier, who traveled with him to Brazil and Paraguay.

On the eve of Guaido’s much anticipated return, the Trump administration issued warnings of a “significant response” if the opposition politician’s safety were put in jeopardy.

Earlier on Sunday, Bolton said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that Washington is seeking to assemble a “broad coalition” to “replace Maduro.” The national security advisor likewise invoked the Monroe Doctrine to justify regime change, denying that US support for dictatorial regimes elsewhere delegitimizes US efforts in “our hemisphere.”

On Monday, the Trump administration also announced new economic sanctions against Cuba over the island nation’s alleged “role in usurping democracy and fomenting repression in Venezuela.”

In a speech in Miami in November, Bolton singled out Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua as the “troika of tyranny,” and more recently Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that Washington would soon turn its sights on Havana and Managua.

With additional reporting by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.

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