Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido returned home to Venezuela on Monday and urged his supporters to intensify their campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
Guaido spent the last week traveling outside the country, having ignored an official ban on foreign travel.
There were concerns that Guaido might be detained upon his return. But the 35-year-old said he got through immigration checks at Venezuela’s main airport with no problems. He was met at the airport by top diplomats from the United States, Germany, Spain and other countries.
Guaido later spoke to a crowd of demonstrators in Caracas. He called on his supporters across the country to fill the streets on Saturday to protest Maduro’s hold on power.
Guaido is leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. He declared himself interim president of Venezuela on January 23, two weeks after Maduro began his second six-year term. Many Venezuelans say the election should not be recognized because Maduro barred his opponents from running against him.
In the last week, Guaido visited Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador -- all countries that support his claim to be Venezuela’s interim president.
Guaido said he hopes his return to Venezuela will increase pressure on Maduro to resign so a temporary government can prepare the country for fair and free elections.
Maduro has said he is the target of a U.S.-backed plot to overthrow him. The United States and about 50 other countries have recognized Guaido as the true leader of Venezuela.
There was no immediate comment Monday from the Maduro government, which has in the past jailed and driven into exile other key opposition leaders.
Instead, the Maduro government has been trying to center the public’s attention on the carnival celebrations going on this week. On Sunday, Maduro tweeted that Venezuelans nationwide were enjoying carnival “in peace and happiness.”
Among the demonstrators who waited for Guaido at the Caracas gathering Monday was Wildredo Moya. He is a 55-year-old former construction worker. He said Venezuelans hoping for change should understand it will take time.
“It’s a long process,” Moya said.
I'm Ashley Thompson.
The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
interim - adj. used or accepted for a limited time : not permanent
construction - n. the act or process of building something (such as a house or road)