Juan Guaidó, the main opposition leader in Venezuela, has taken refuge in the United States, thus becoming “the latest in a long line of Venezuelan opposition leaders in exile,” commented the Financial Times. Guaidó said he left after receiving several threats from people close to Venezuela’s authoritarian president, Nicolás Maduro, whom he has opposed for years. He did not specify whether he intends to stay in the United States and continue to oppose Maduro from there.
Guaidó reached the United States after being expelled from Colombia, where he arrived on Monday by crossing the border on foot, according to the Colombian government illegally. Colombia is currently governed by Gustavo Petro, close to Maduro. “After sixty hours of road to get to Bogota, escaping the persecution of the dictatorship, defying Maduro’s regime, they are taking me away from Colombia,” Guaidó said in a video shot from the plane, later accusing Maduro of extending his own ” persecutions” even outside Venezuelan territory.
In addition to being Maduro’s main opponent, Guaidó had been recognized by some countries as the legitimate president of Venezuela: he proclaimed himself president in 2018, following elections criticized for their lack of transparency and officially won by Maduro. In 2019 the National Assembly, the main legislative body of the country, had appointed Guaidó as interim president as second in line of succession: since then in Venezuela there are two presidents, each of whom defines the other as illegitimate, but in fact the Maduro has always had power.
Over the last few years, Guaidó’s opposition to Maduro had lost strength: Maduro had managed to extend and strengthen his control and establish diplomatic relations with a series of foreign governments, including Colombia itself, which was interested in collaborating with him mainly to counter their problems with some armed groups that also have bases in Venezuela. Meanwhile, Guaidó’s attempts to oust Maduro had systematically failed and his position had greatly weakened.
Guaidó had left Venezuela last Monday, claiming that threats from the Maduro regime towards him and his family had recently intensified, as well as attempts to “silence” him. He had gone to Colombia because he intended to participate in a conference organized by President Petro, which, among other things, should have discussed how to encourage the resumption of negotiations between Maduro’s government and the opposition, which were interrupted in 2021.
Representatives of 19 countries and the European Union had been invited to the conference, but not Maduro or Guaidó. In announcing his participation, Guaidó said he hoped it would help restart negotiations with Maduro for “free and fair elections”. His announcement had not been well received by the Colombian government, whose foreign minister reiterated that Guaidó had not been invited to the conference and was not expected to participate.
After his arrival in Bogota, Guaidó was accompanied by the Colombian authorities to the airport, and subsequently boarded a flight to Miami, from which he denounced his expulsion.
The Colombian government, for its part, claims that Guaidó entered Colombia irregularly and denies having expelled him, President Petro said he is ready to welcome him the moment he enters Colombia in a regular way and following all the necessary procedures ( those entering Colombia from Venezuela need a visa only if they stay more than 90 days, but in any case it is necessary to fill in some documents). Meanwhile, some US government officials have expressed solidarity with Guaidó, criticizing the Colombian government.
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