By Friederike Heine, dpa
HAVANA TIMES – Opposition leader and self-declared interim president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, arrived in Caracas on Tuesday after a three-week international tour which included stops in Washington, Davos and Brussels.
“We have arrived in Caracas. I bring with me the commitment of the free world, willing to help us recover democracy and freedom,” Guaido said on Twitter, capping a trip that saw him slip out of the country in defiance of a Supreme Court-issued travel ban.
Clashes broke out between opposition lawmakers and supporters of President Nicolas Maduro at the country’s main airport ahead of Guaido’s arrival as thousands thronged to witness the event.
Guaido’s Voluntad Popular opposition party posted a video of the clashes on Twitter, captioning it: “Militants and officials of the Maduro regime attack deputies and try to prevent their access to the airport to receive (Guaido).”
Two journalists were severely beaten by Maduro supporters while trying to cover the event, according to the National Union of Press Workers in Venezuela (SNTP).
Venezuelan authorities erected road blocks between Caracas and the airport – located in Marquetia, some 25 kilometres north of the capital – to prevent opposition lawmakers from receiving Guaido, his office said.
Local media reported that opposition deputies also clashed with employees of Conviasa, Venezuela’s state-owned airline.
The carrier was subjected to sanctions last week by the US Treasury Department, which argued that it was being used “to shuttle corrupt regime officials around the world to fuel support for its anti-democratic efforts.”
Guaido, who declared himself interim president last year and is recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate leader by more than 50 countries, is returning from a tour that notably included a stop at the White House, where he was welcomed in a format typically reserved for heads of state.
His tour also included stops in Davos for the World Economic Forum, in Brussels, where he called on the international community to ratchet up sanctions on Venezuela, and in London for talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Despite international support and massive anti-government demonstrations in Venezuela, Guaido has not succeeded in ousting Maduro, who won a second term in a controversial election in 2018.
This is in large part because Maduro – who has presided over an economic meltdown that has caused a mass exodus from the country – still has the support of the country’s powerful military.