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Venezuelan opposition leader lands in Miami to safeguard from threats

Washington once backed Juan Guaido as the rightful leader of Venezuela, but Nicholas Maduro refused to cede power.

(CN) — U.S. diplomats facilitated travel into Miami on Tuesday by a Venezuelan opposition leader who says he fears for his life and those of his family under the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Juan Guaido posted on Twitter that he would enter the United States in the face of “direct threats” against him and his family — five years after he was held up as the acting president of Venezuela to counter elections considered fraudulent by outside observers.

Before arriving in Miami this afternoon seeking refuge, Guaido tweeted earlier in the day about making it to Colombia "on foot" to attend an international conference about Venezuela's ongoing and worsening political and economic crisis under Maduro.

“Once he was in Colombia unannounced, U.S. diplomats worked closely with the Colombian government to help him get safely to the United States,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a briefing Tuesday.

Patel said Guaido’s travel to the United States does not reflect “any kind of change on our policy when it comes to Venezuela,” which the State Department has criticized for a variety of abuses including arbitrary arrests of political opponents, media censorship and torture.

“We expect the regime in Venezuela to make significant progress when it comes to some of the humanitarian and human rights concerns that we’ve consistently raised,” he said. 

Traveling on a tourist visa, Guaido reportedly entered Florida solo on a commercial flight and has not indicated if he plans to formally seek asylum in the U.S.

“Over the past few days, the regime has increased its threats against me with the sole purpose of silencing me,” he wrote on Twitter. “I won’t give Maduro that chance.”

Colombia's Foreign Ministry said Guaido improperly entered the country, and he was escorted to the airport by immigration officials. Colombia President Gustavo Petro Urrego, who met with President Joe Biden last Thursday, said Guaido was not removed from the country by force.

Maduro, who took power in 2013 after the death of the popular socialist President Hugo Chavez, has seen more than 6 million Venezuelans flee the country during his reign, according to the State Department. While Maduro and his government are under economic sanctions from the U.S., Washington has provided more than $2.8 billion in humanitarian aid to countries taking refugees since 2017.

After Maduro clung to office in a 2018 election seen by outside observers as fraudulent, dozens of governments worldwide, including that of the U.S., recognized Guaido as the country’s legitimate interim president and called for a transitional government. Guadio organized a symbolic parallel legislature and interim government, but Maduro retained power. 

Once a popular uprising had fizzled out in 2019, however, Guaido proved unable to take over the country, and local and international support for him declined. This past December, the opposition legislature voted to end the interim government and reorganize for elections in 2024.

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Categories / International, Politics

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