- Venezuela’s opposition leader and self-declared interim president, Juan Guaidó, is re-entering the country after a ten-day exile.
- He risks arrest upon his return, and could face up to 30 years in prison.
- Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government put a travel ban on Guaidó after he declared himself interim president.
- During his exile, Guaidó met with world leaders who support his opposition against Maduro.
Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s opposition leader and self-styled interim president, plans to return to his country on Monday, risking arrest and a 30-year prison term for breaking a government-ordered travel ban.
Guaidó told supporters in a Periscope livestream on Sunday that he will return to Venezuela on Monday, and to prepare for a new round of protests at 11 a.m. on Monday (10 a.m. EST).
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 4, 2019
Guaidó left Venezuela on February 22 and travelled around South America to meet world leaders who have pledged their support for him, including US Vice President Mike Pence and the presidents of Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador.
He told The Washington Post on Sunday that he left to organise the entry of humanitarian aid to Venezuela and to strategize with Latin American leaders.
It’s not clear where he is now or how he will re-enter the country.
The beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who has for weeks been facing calls for his resignation, has suggested that Guaidó could be returned upon entry. “He will have to face justice, and justice prohibited him from leaving the country,” he told ABC News last week.
Juan Carlos Valdez, deputy judge of Venezuela’s supreme court, also told Sputnik News that Guaidó may face up to 30 years in prison if he returns to Venezuela.
Guaidó acknowledged that his self-imposed exile could have consequences.
“If the regime dares to kidnap us, that will be the last mistake they make,” Guaidó said in his Periscope video.
In his livestream, Guaidó said he had instructions in place to deal with an arrest. But he assured that no matter the outcome, his attempt to return will spark momentum.
“They can cut a flower but they will never stop the spring from coming,” he said.
The threats mark the latest standoff between Maduro’s socialist regime and its opposition in an increasingly tense tug-of-war to control the government. Venezuela is engulfed in a humanitarian crisis, with severe food and medicine shortages driving millions of refugees abroad.
In January, Guaidó, the virtually unknown leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself the interim president of Venezuela, saying Maduro’s reelection was fraudulent.
The US and most of Latin America immediately recognised Guaidó Venezuela’s official interim president, and most countries in the Western hemisphere followed suit.
Maduro responded by severing all diplomatic ties with the US. He also prohibited Guaidó from leaving the country and froze his assets, saying that the government was investigating him for trying to “usurp” power,El Pais reported.
Guaidó’s plans to take over Venezuela
In his Sunday interview with The Washington Post, Guaidó suggested three possible scenarios to take control of the government: Through free elections; a sui-generis transition in which the opposition relies on the constitution to gain control; or a military rebellion.
Guaidó refused to call military intervention a “military coup,” but said it “ceasing the usurpation.”
While Venezuelan military leaders declared their loyalty to Maduro last month, more than 500 soldiers mostly from lower and middle ranks defected to Colombia last week in a sign that Maduro’s once rock-solid power base is crumbling.
The US doubled down on its support for Guaidó on Sunday, with National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeting: “Any threats or acts against his safe return will be met a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community.”