Guaido returns to Venezuela, calls for more street protests

Guaido returns to Venezuela, calls for more street protests

CARACAS- The Associated Press
Guaido returns to Venezuela, calls for more street protests

The 35-year-old leader of Venezuela's National Assembly showed off his passport before climbing onto scaffolding and pumping his fist during the demonstration in Caracas.

There were few security forces nearby and no immediate comment from Maduro's government. While thousands of Venezuelans heeded Guaido's call for protests coinciding with his return, many wonder whether he can maintain momentum against the government.

"We know the risks that we face. That's never stopped us," Guaido said after arriving at Venezuela's main airport and going through immigration checks.

The United States and some 50 other countries have recognized Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, arguing that Maduro's re-election last year was invalid because popular opposition candidates were barred from running.

Guaido visited Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador over the past week - all countries that support his claim to be Venezuela's interim president and call on Maduro to resign so that the country can prepare for free and fair elections.

The United States, which has warned Maduro not to act against Guaido, congratulated the opposition leader on his return to Venezuela.

"The international community must unite and push for the end of Maduro's brutal regime and the peaceful restoration of democracy in Venezuela," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Maduro has said he is the target of a U.S.-backed coup plot after the Trump administration joined other countries in backing Guaido. The United States has also imposed oil sanctions on Venezuela, which has the world's largest oil reserves.

Venezuela's vice president, Delcy Rodriguez, did not directly address a question about whether Guaido faces arrest during a recent interview with Russian state-owned TV channel RT. But she left open the possibility, saying Guaido had broken the law and is "a Venezuelan who conspires with foreign governments to overthrow a constitutional government."

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