Juan Guaidó returns to Venezuela after diplomatic world tour

Opposition leader sought international support for efforts to oust Nicolás Maduro

 Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaidó arrives at Simón Bolívar International Airport in Maiquetia, Venezuela on Tuesday. Photograph:  Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaidó arrives at Simón Bolívar International Airport in Maiquetia, Venezuela on Tuesday. Photograph: Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images

 

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó returned home on Tuesday after a three-week whirlwind tour that spanned the World Economic Forum in Davos and the White House as he seeks to rebuild momentum to oust President Nicolás Maduro.

Mr Guaidó entered Venezuela via the main airport and was allowed back in by officials despite a travel ban imposed by Mr Maduro’s government. He later spoke at a press conference in a plaza in the Caracas opposition stronghold of Chacao.

“I challenged them and we entered Venezuela, we have challenged them time after time,” Mr Guaidó said. “You are a coward, Nicolas, you won’t confront me or the people who want you gone for good.”

Mr Guaidó, who is recognised by more than 50 countries as Venezuela’s legitimate president, hopes to revive the inertia of 2019 when he led a groundswell of protests against Mr Maduro over human rights violations and a collapsed economy.

He was received as Venezuela’s head of state in Britain and France and was cheered as a hero by Venezuelan emigres in Spain. He also met with US president Donald Trump, helping demonstrate that he retains the backing of international players.

But he faces an increasingly weary population that in recent months has shown waning enthusiasm for more demonstrations. Many opposition sympathisers have become frustrated by Mr Maduro’s continued grip on power, thanks to backing from the armed forces and support from China and Russia.

Mr Guaidó arrived at Maiquetia International Airport outside Caracas to a throng of supporters as well as groups of pro-government agitators who shouted insults and hit his car with sticks and traffic cones. Journalists said they were attacked and robbed while covering his return.

The ruling Socialist Party has repeatedly suggested Mr Guaidó could be imprisoned for seeking international assistance to end Mr Maduro’s rule. But the government has never executed an arrest warrant, and Mr Maduro appears willing to allow him to remain free.

“We don’t waste time on bozos,” Mr Maduro said during a televised broadcast on Tuesday evening, in an apparent reference to Mr Guaidó.

Venezuela’s economic collapse under Mr Maduro has led nearly five million people to emigrate, creating a migration crisis in nearby Latin American nations. – Reuters