Opposition leader Juan Guaido returned to Venezuela to a chaotic scene at Caracas’s international airport, as President Nicolas Maduro’s loyalists clashed with opposition lawmakers there to greet him.
After passing through customs and immigration, Guaido was swarmed by the clashing lawmakers and Maduro backers. He and his travelling entourage were able to leave the airport without being arrested for violating a government travel ban. The opposition leader had also defied a travel ban last year without suffering repercussions on his re-entry to Venezuela.
His return caps an international tour that featured stops in Davos and Washington, where he met President Donald Trump, in search of support to unseat Maduro.
“This is a cowardly dictatorship, I defied them and we entered Venezuela,” Guaido said at a rally in a public square in eastern Caracas. “They don’t accept their destiny. They are alone, isolated, they represent no one.”
Guaido said journalists were attacked. Earlier, security forces stopped buses taking National Assembly members to the
airport. Opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano said on Twitter that authorities continued to hold legislator Deyalitza Aray, who was detained while trying to reach the airport.
Journalists said they were beaten and chased by Maduro supporters while at the airport. Inside the terminal, government supporters protested against the US government’s decision last week to sanction state-owned airline Conviasa.
“The escalation of violence is very serious,” Guaido said at the eastern Caracas rally. “There were irregular groups backed by agents of the dictatorship.”
Though he promised important announcements, Guaido’s speech focussed on stirring supporters.
Still, Guaido vowed domestic and international action to keep the pressure on Maduro.