Self-declared “interim president” of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, returned from his South American tour on Monday, arriving into the loving (and protective) arms of ambassadors from the foreign governments backing him.
Despite Venezuelan authorities making it clear he could face 30 years in prison for attempting to overthrow the government and violating a travel ban, Guaido chose to arrive directly to an airport in Caracas.
The risk of arrest was notably mitigated by the presence of ambassadors from Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and several other countries which gathered at the arrival gate to huddle around him like a high-profile human shield. While Guaido was all smiles, his Western-world entourage seemed a bit on edge.
While the media fretted that Maduro might make good on threats to arrest Guaido, the opposition leader passed through customs without incident and headed straight to a rally in central Caracas.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence warned the Venezuelan government that Washington protects its investments, stressing how important Guaido is to them, and threatening a “swift response” if anyone tries to bully him.
Shortly after moving unhindered through the airport, Guaido arrived at a demonstration he called for on Twitter the week before. Addressing crowds in the country’s capital city, he called on his supporters to take to the streets for continued demonstrations next Saturday.
While Guaido toured South America and met with his most critical support base – foreign governments – the US ramped up pressure on Maduro’s government, imposing intensified sanctions and revoking visas for state actors.