Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido arrived at Caracas’ airport on Monday after flouting a court-imposed travel ban by touring Latin American countries to boost support for his campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro, ONA reports citing Reuters.
A crowd of cheering supporters swarmed Guaido and his wife as they stepped into Maiquetia international airport’s arrivals hall. He then climbed onto a car roof and gave a thumbs up to people clustered in the road outside before leaving for Caracas where several thousand supporters had gathered to welcome him.
Guaido had vowed to return to lead protests on Monday and Tuesday during the Carnival holiday period. He kept details of his trip under wraps and he arrived without prior notice, meeting ambassadors for European countries at the airport, according to witnesses.
“Back in our beloved country! Venezuela, we just passed through immigration and we will now head to where our people are,” he said on Twitter just after arriving.
His return could become the next flashpoint in his duel with Maduro as he seeks to keep up momentum and spur his international backers to further isolate the socialist government. Most Western countries recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state.
His possible arrest could allow the opposition to highlight how the Maduro administration represses political foes, and prompt the United States to impose even harsher sanctions. But it could also strip the opposition of a public figurehead who has brought unity after years of infighting.
Guaido calls Maduro a usurper and says his presidency is illegitimate after he secured re-election last year in a vote widely considered a sham. But Maduro retains control of state institutions and the apparent loyalty of senior figures in the armed forces.
“Upon my arrival, whatever path the dictator takes, we are going to continue,” Guaido said earlier on Monday in a recorded voice message posted on his Twitter account.
Guaido secretly left Venezuela for Colombia, in violation of a Supreme Court order, to coordinate efforts there on Feb. 23 to send humanitarian aid into Venezuela to alleviate widespread shortages of food and medicine.
But troops blocked convoys of aid trucks sent from Colombia and Brazil, leading to clashes that killed at least six people along the Brazilian border, rights groups say.
From Colombia, he traveled to Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay to shore up Latin American support for a transition government that would precede free and fair elections.
On Sunday, he departed by plane from the Ecuadorean coastal town of Salinas but had not appeared publicly since. Venezuelan media outlets reported that he flew from Panama City to Caracas.