(Bloomberg) -- Opposition leader Juan Guaido returned to Venezuela Tuesday to a chaotic scene at Caracas’s international airport, as President Nicolas Maduro’s loyalists clashed with opposition lawmakers there to greet him.
After passing through customs and immigration, Guaido was swarmed by the clashing lawmakers and Maduro backers. He and his traveling entourage were able to leave the airport without being arrested for violating a government travel ban. The opposition leader had also defied a travel ban last year without suffering repercussions on his re-entry to Venezuela.
His return caps an international tour that featured stops in Davos and Washington, where he met President Donald Trump in search of support to unseat Maduro.
“I bring the free world’s compromise with me, willing to help us reach democracy and freedom,” Guaido tweeted upon his arrival. “A new period begins that will not admit setbacks,” he said.
Earlier Tuesday, security forces stopped buses taking National Assembly lawmakers to the Caracas airport. Inside, government supporters protested against the U.S. government’s decision last week to sanction state-owned airline Conviasa.
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Recognized as the nation’s rightful leader by almost 60 countries, Guaido was publicly embraced by Trump during his State-of-the-Union address last week, in which the U.S. leader promised that “Maduro’s grip of tyranny will be smashed and broken.”
In mid-January, Guaido traveled to Bogota with the support of Colombia President Ivan Duque. Subsequently, Guaido attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa, among others.
Before leaving the U.S., he met with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Organization of American States Secretary-General Luis Almagro.
Venezuela’s socialist leader struck a defiant tone in his response to Guaido’s U.S trip.
“Donald Trump: you can’t beat Venezuela, nobody can smash or break Venezuela,” Maduro said in a speech following Guaido’s meeting at the White House. “Madness has taken over Donald Trump’s policy against Venezuela.”
After Venezuela’s 2018 elections widely regarded as rigged, Guaido, in his capacity as president of the opposition-led National Assembly, invoked Venezuela’s charter to launch an interim government in January 2019 and rapidly won international recognition after Maduro began a six-year term.
While Maduro had threatened to arrest Guaido for months, a Trump official warned Feb. 5 that Venezuela‘s regime would see very significant consequences if there is any harm to opposition leader upon his return.
--With assistance from Nicolle Yapur and Fabiola Zerpa.
To contact the reporters on this story: Patricia Laya in Caracas at firstname.lastname@example.org;Alex Vasquez in Caracas Office at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Cancel at firstname.lastname@example.org, Robert Jameson
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