Juan Guaidó, Facing Arrest Threat, Returns to Venezuela

Juan Guaidó, Facing Arrest Threat, Returns to Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela — Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader who defied a travel ban and left the country more than a week ago, returned Monday in what could turn into a new showdown with President Nicolás Maduro.

“Back in our beloved homeland!,” Mr. Guaidó said in a Twitter posting from the airport in Caracas, where he landed on a commercial flight from Panama. “We just got through passport control and will head where our people are!”

It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Maduro would be detained by government security forces. But Mr. Maduro’s government has said Mr. Guaidó violated restrictions on his travel and could face arrest.

Mr. Guaidó, 35, has become the biggest challenge to Mr. Maduro’s embattled presidency over the past few months, declaring himself interim president in January on grounds that Mr. Maduro won a second term through fraud.

The struggle between the two has intensified as Venezuela, once Latin America’s most prosperous nation, has slid into its worst economic crisis, with under Mr. Maduro accused by critics of corruption and mismanagement. Shortages are acute, the health care system has collapsed and more than three million Venezuelans have fled.

Mr. Maduro has called Mr. Guaidó a lackey of the Trump administration and attributed the country’s economic malaise to American sanctions that have been intensified by President Trump since he called on other countries to support Mr. Guaidó and predicted that Mr. Maduro’s socialist government was near an end.

Mr. Guaidó left Venezuela surreptitiously on Feb. 23 to help direct an effort to bring truckloads of emergency aid into Venezuela via border crossings in Colombia and Brazil. The effort was blocked by Mr. Maduro’s armed forces and other loyalists.

Since then he has visited several sympathetic Latin American countries to strengthen support for his opposition movement, which has the backing of the Trump administration. About 50 other governments, mostly in Latin America and Europe, have renounced ties with Mr. Maduro and recognized Mr. Guaidó instead.

John R. Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, warned Mr. Maduro’s government via Twitter on Sunday night not to block Mr. Guaidó from returning or arrest him.

“Any threats or acts against his safe return will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community,” Mr. Bolton said.

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