Venezuela’s Guaidó returns home triumphantly after ‘illegal’ foreign tour

Venezuela’s Guaidó returns home triumphantly after ‘illegal’ foreign tour

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó passes through customs upon his return to Caracas on March 4, 2019. Courtesy: Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó passes through customs upon his return to Caracas on Thursday. (Courtesy: Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela)

“The military is not arresting him so far. That tells you that they’re divided or they’re very worried about the reaction to such an arrest.”

UNITED NATIONS  Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó triumphantly returned home Monday after a nine-day international trip to gain support for his effort to dislodge President Nicolás Maduro from power.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court hit Guaidó with a travel ban in January after he declared himself interim president, but Guaidó didn’t listen. He entered Colombia on Feb. 22 to help mobilize foreign aid and spent the following days on a whirlwind tour of South American capitals.

Risking a possible 30-year jail term for leaving the country, Guaidó returned to a rock star reception. Twelve foreign ambassadors even met him at the airport to guarantee his safety, while top U.S. officials repeatedly took to social media to demand he be allowed to move freely.

Only minutes after clearing customs, Guaidó addressed a major rally downtown.

“What’s most interesting is that the military and Maduro is not arresting him so far.”

Ted Piccone is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute’s Latin America Initiative.

“That tells you something — that they’re divided or they’re very worried about the reaction to such an arrest.”

While Guaidó is free now, his effort to win the support of Venezuela’s powerful military is proving more difficult than he — or allies like the U.S. — hoped.

Ryan Berg is a research fellow for Latin America at the American Enterprise Institute.

“Estimates are that currently there is anywhere between a few hundred and somewhere near 600 officers who have defected, but that’s not nearly enough.”

Juan Guaidó addresses supporters at a rally in Caracas after returning to Venezuela on March 4, 2019. Courtesy: Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela
Juan Guaidó addresses supporters at a rally in Caracas after returning to Venezuela on Monday. (Courtesy: Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela)

Adding to Guaidó’s challenges, it’s now carnival season in Venezuela, which some predict will dampen enthusiasm for more protests.

But Berg isn’t convinced, and thinks Guaidó is wise to call for protests and talks with public sector unions, even as some Venezuelans hit the beaches.

“Guaidó quite rationally was looking at what happened last week when Maduro said actually we’re going to start the Carnival celebrations early and that everybody has off a few days before the weekend. People ended up showing up to work — basically sending the message that we don’t take orders from you anymore.”

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