As Guaido Re-Enters Venezuela Monday, Bolton Threatens US Action If He's Detained
US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido plans to re-enter Venezuela on Monday after previously meeting with Vice President Mike Pence and other regional leaders in Colombia last week, and after visiting with the president of Ecuador on Sunday. The Maduro government, including Venezuela's Supreme Court, has said he could face up to 30 years in prison for violating a prior travel ban placed on him — something which the US has balked at, saying it would take action if Guaido were prosecuted or harmed.
In a speech posted to social media on Sunday, Guaido referenced other notable opposition leaders currently imprisoned or under house arrest: “Tomorrow we will return to our country, there is a risk on returning, many politicians like Leopoldo Lopez and union leaders are imprisoned but if the governement seizes me, there are clear steps to take, mobilization is the first one”, he said according to Bloomberg. And attempting to stoke the momentum of anti-Maduro protests which seem to have faded in the country, he added, "we will take the streets" and that “I will announce next political steps tomorrow. This process in unstoppable. Political transition has already started.”
Significantly, Guaido invoked the some 700 total armed forces widely reported to have defected over the past weeks, most believed to have taken refuge in Colombia, to suggest successful "mobilization" and significant momentum. “I announce my return to the country and call on marches across the country for Monday and Tuesday,” he said on Twitter late Saturday. He said that if arrested by Maduro, it "would be a coup d'etat".
In reality his crossing back into Venezuela will put himself at the mercy of Maduro's security forces, but on the same of day of Guaido's comments, National Security Adviser John Bolton wrote on Twitter, “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” — though it remains unclear just how far Washington would be willing to go should the self-declared "interim president" be seized.
Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido has announced his planned return to Venezuela. 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.— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) March 4, 2019
Maduro told ABC News in an interview last Tuesday, "He [Guaido] can leave and come back and will have to see the face of justice because justice had prohibited him from him leaving the country… He has to respect the laws." In a follow-up question concerning whether Maduro would have the opposition leaders arrested, the president said that only a court can make this decision.
Meanwhile deputy judge of the Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal of Justice, Juan Carlos Valdez told Russia's Sputnik on the same day Maduro's interview was published that Guaido "may face up to 30 years in jail" for violating the travel ban.
The deputy judge said according to the report:
He is a person hiding from justice. What is happening with runaways, who are reentering the country and found by the authorities? They must be caught and sent to a prison […] He may face up to 30 years in jail."
The supreme court judge further said "the prosecution was currently analyzing the possible crimes committed by Guaido," according to Sputnik. Guaido has recently indicated to regional media that he plans to return to Venezuela understanding full well he's likely to be arrested.
Meanwhile on CNN Bolton defended his bellicose (and some might say very selective) rhetoric against the Maduro government...
Bolton asked about tweets calling Maduro a dictator who violates human rights:— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) March 3, 2019
CNN: Do you not see US support for other dictators around the world undermines the credibility of your argument.
Bolton: No, I don’t think it does. I think it’s separate.
This as Guaido has called on world powers to intervene in Venezuela to "liberate" the people from the Maduro regime. Toward this end he's called on his international backers to impose harsher measures to pressure Maduro and after the aid convoy’s failure proposed that “all options be kept open.”
While U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has not ruled out military intervention to dislodge Maduro, it is seen as unlikely and his Latin American allies have encouraged a mix of sanctions and diplomacy instead.
Meanwhile, even as Maduro's regime has kept the political backing from allies like Russia, China and Turkey, any future financial support from those countries remains a major question mark and will be key to Maduro’s staying power.
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