By Christian Thiele (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – Venezuela’s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido said on Sunday that he was taking off from a naval base in Ecuador, a day after calling for protests to coincide with his return to his homeland.
Guaido thanked Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno and the country’s armed forces in the tweet announcing his departure from the naval air base in the Ecuadorian coastal town of Salinas.
He also called on Venezuelans across the country to gather on Monday and to pay attention to official channels for more information on meeting points.
On Saturday, Guaido had also said that he would return to Venezuela following his visit to Ecuador despite the risk of arrest, though he did not name a specific date at the time.
Maduro has said Guaido could be arrested on his return for violating a travel ban placed on him by the Supreme Court after he declared himself interim president on January 23.
The opposition leader nevertheless left the country on February 22 to travel to Colombia and other South American countries including Brazil and Argentina in a bid to rally support.
His original schedule also included a visit to Peru on Sunday.
Guaido has been recognized as interim president by more than 60 countries including the United States, while Maduro has the backing of Russia, China, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
The speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said on Sunday that Moscow is determined to prevent a military intervention in Venezuela.
“We are very afraid that the United States may stage any provocations to provoke bloodshed and find a reason and pretext for intervention in Venezuela,” said Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko in comments carried by the state news agency TASS.
“But we will do our utmost to prevent this,” she added.
Matviyenko did not say how Russia would block such a move.
The US has not explicitly ruled out a military intervention in Venezuela, where an economic crisis presided over by Maduro has precipitated mass migration due to dire humanitarian conditions.
The US supports Guaido, an opposition leader who called for fresh elections, along with numerous other Latin American and European states.
On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov doubled down on the Kremlin’s criticism of Washington’s involvement in the oil-rich nation’s internal affairs.
Following a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Lavrov said that aggressive influence from outside the country “under the hypocritical pretext of humanitarian aid has nothing to do with the democratic process.”
Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez visited Moscow this weekend for talks.