Guaido ‘to return’ to Venezuela, risks arrest over defying travel ban
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Guaido ‘to return’ to Venezuela, risks arrest over defying travel ban

In a tweet, Guido announced his departure from a naval air base in the Ecuadorian coastal town of Salinas on Sunday, without disclosing his location. The opposition chief said he will be arriving in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to lead fresh anti-government protests later on Monday and Tuesday. “I announce my return to the country and I call for mobilizations in all the national territory, I am calling on the Venezuelan people to mobilize all over the country tomorrow at 11:00 am (1500 GMT),” Guaido wrote in a Twitter message. “We are much stronger than ever, and it is not time to falter.” “If the regime dares to kidnap us, it will be the last mistake they make,” Guaido said. Guaido, who heads the defunct National Assembly, pushed the country into a new political crisis in January, when he suddenly declared himself as “interim president” of Venezuela, disputing the outcome of last May’s election, in which President Nicolas Maduro emerged victorious. He was recognized by the US as well as dozens of its Latin American and European allies. The crisis has worsened the country’s woes, including hyperinflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine. The opposition leader, who is accused in Venezuela of trying to foment a US-backed coup d’état against the Maduro government, had been banned from traveling abroad by the Supreme Court. Guaido, however, defied that travel ban and left Venezuela for meetings with the leaders of Paraguay, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil during the past few days to build pressure on Caracas and facilitate what is claimed to be humanitarian aid delivery to Venezuelan people. The army, which has remained loyal to Maduro, however, blocked convoys of trucks from Colombia and Brazil. The Caracas government sees the humanitarian aid as part of Guaido’s Washington-backed coup plot. He could now face a significant term in prison, according to Deputy Judge of the Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal of Justice Juan Carlos Valdez, who said earlier that Guaido “may face up to 30 years in jail.” Maduro also said last week that Guaido will have to face the consequences of his actions.  “He can’t just come and go. He will have to face justice, and justice prohibited him from leaving the country. I will respect the laws,” Maduo said in an ABC News interview released on Tuesday. “No one can be above the law. In this case, Guaido has to answer before the justice and not before Nicolas Maduro,” the president added. Maduo has formerly slammed Guaido as a “US puppet,” calling on him to “think well about what he is doing” and return to the negotiating table. Guaido claimed his team had a strategy in the event of his arrest. He did not provide details, though.  “A prisoner doesn’t do anyone any good but neither does an exiled president so we are in uncharted waters here,” he said earlier. Speaking at a joint press conference with Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday, he called on the international community to enforce economic sanctions against Maduro “so that everything is not robbed in Venezuela.” He had also welcomed US threats of potential military intervention in his home country, saying he could take a “controversial” decision to “authorize” a “humanitarian” intervention into Venezuela. Bolton threatens Venezuela Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton warned Caracas on Sunday against any attempt to prevent the safe return of Guaido. He said Venezuelan authorities would receive a “strong and significant response” from the US administration. Bolton also reiterated Washington’s support for Guaido, in an interview with the CNN, saying that Washington has been “trying to rally support for the peaceful transition of power from Maduro to Juan Guaido, whom we recognize as president.” US Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams also threatened the Maduro government with a “major international” reaction, should Guaido get arrested. He said on Friday that the US is very concerned about Guido’s “ability to go back home” from travels abroad.

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