Opposition leader Juan Guaido returned to Venezuela on Monday after a series of meetings in Latin America, with world leaders sympathetic to his cause.
His return comes amid concerns that he could be arrested for defying a Supreme Court travel ban to leave the country and seek international help for Venezuela which has been steeped in economic and political turmoil, a crisis that had deepened following the re-election of President Nicolas Maduro in 2018.
But Guaido, who is now recognized by 50 countries as the de facto Venezuelan President, was met at the Simon Bolivar International airport by top diplomats from the United States, Germany, Spain and other countries, a move political observers believe was designed to thwart any attempt to detain him.
During his tour Guaido visited Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador whose leaders express support for his claim to be Venezuela’s interim president. They have all urged Maduro to resign and allow the Spanish-speaking South American country to prepare for free and fair elections.
Guaido also met with United States Vice President Mike Pence who reiterated the US support of Guaido as Venezuela’s president and repeated the call for Maduro to step down. He also said the US will not give up on efforts to get food and aid into Venezuela and is considering other borders.
At a rally within hours of his return, Guaido said that despite receiving death threats, he had been treated well upon his arrival at the airport adding that it was testament to a breakage in the chain of command in the government’s security forces.
Guaido called for a national street protest on Saturday adding that they know the risks they face but it has never stopped them in the past.
“On Saturday we’ll continue in the streets, all of Venezuela will return to the streets, decided and determined to mobilise in search of their freedom. We will not rest one second until freedom is achieved,” the leader of the opposition controlled National Assembly told a crowd of euphoric supporters on Monday.
Guaido also paid tribute to Venezuelans who died in clashes at the Venezuela-Brazil border last week when Venezuelan military prevented the delivery of aid.
Venezuela is gripped by a humanitarian crisis expected to get worse as a U.S. oil sanctions take their toll.
There has been no immediate reaction from President Nicolas Maduro nor his supporters as the focus is on the country’s Carnival festivities scheduled to end on Tuesday.