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Crowds gather as Juan Guaidó returns to Venezuela

Tensions in the South American country have grown since 23 January when Guaidó declared himself president.

Venezuela Political Crisis Crowds gathered in the capital Caracas today. Ariana Cubillos / PA Images Ariana Cubillos / PA Images / PA Images

VENEZUELA’S OPPOSITION LEADER Juan Guaidó returned to the capital Caracas today despite the threat of arrest from President Nicolas Maduró’s regime.

The self-declared interim leader left Venezuela 10 days ago in an unsuccessful bid to force through humanitarian aid stockpiled in neighbouring Colombia. He then went on a tour of regional allies Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Ecuador.

When he left Venezuela on 23 February, Guaidó said the military had helped him cross the border into Colombia, even though he was under a travel ban.

Tensions in the South American country have grown since 23 January when Guaidó declared himself president and called for fresh elections. 

His reappearance in Venezuela poses a direct challenge to socialist Maduró, who must now decide whether to arrest Guaidó for defying a travel ban – thereby provoking strong international condemnation – or allow him to enter, undermining his own authority. 

Venezuela Political Crisis Juan Guaidó Eduardo Verdugo / PA Images Eduardo Verdugo / PA Images / PA Images

“We know the risks we face, that’s never stopped us. The regime, the dictatorship must understand,” Guaidó, who is supported by more than 50 countries, told a large crowd this afternoon. 

We’re stronger than ever, let’s carry on in the streets, mobilised.

Just before his arrival, US Vice President Mike Pence sent a warning to Maduró to ensure Guaidó’s safety.

“Any threats, violence, or intimidation against him will not be tolerated and will be met with swift response,” Pence wrote on Twitter.

Supporters, media and ambassadors of allied countries surrounded Guaidó on his arrival at the international airport in Caracas before he headed into the city and a homecoming by thousands of supporters.

There, the self-declared acting president announced a new protest march for Saturday to ramp up the pressure on Maduró.

“All of Venezuela will return to the streets,” he said. “We will not rest one second until freedom is achieved”.

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