Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul says that there has not been this much Russian involvement in the Western Hemisphere since the Cuban missile crisis.
Pro-government protesters doused Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó with a liquid, shouted “fascist,” and grabbed at his shirt as he made his way through a crowd at the airport just outside the capital Caracas Tuesday after returning from a three-week trip to meet with world leaders, including President Trump.
Guaidó, who is recognized as the legitimate leader of Venezuela by more than 50 countries, including the U.S., defied a travel ban instituted by embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to visit Colombia, Europe, Canada and the U.S. over the three weeks, BBC reported.
Inside the terminal, a woman shouted at Guaidó and threw what appeared to be a soft drink can, dousing him in a liquid. She was wearing the uniform of the state-owned airline Conviasa, which the Trump administration recently hit with a round of new sanctions.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido, center, arrives at the Simon Bolivar International Airport in La Guaira, Venezuela, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Guaido returned home from a tour of nations that back his effort to oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
After the encounter, Guaidó then walked away pumping his right hand over his head, according to The Associated Press. An aggressive crowd of protesters outside the airport shouted, “Dirty traitor!” and “Get out!” at him. Some threw traffic cones and others pounded the hood of an SUV that whisked him away.
Pro-Maduro protesters also fought opposition supporters awaiting Guaido’s arrival. Several Venezuelan lawmakers who support Guaido had to walk to the airport to greet him after their bus was stopped by state police, BBC reported. Journalists at the scene said they were attacked and had their equipment stolen by Maduro supporters. Guaidó’s office later announced that a relative who was traveling with him had been detained at the airport by officials.
Supporters of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro attack a vehicle carrying opposition leader Juan Guaido after he arrived at the Simon Bolivar International Airport in La Guaira, Venezuela, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Guaido returned home from a tour of nations that back his effort to oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Guaidó launched the trip with the goal of redoubling backing in Washington and Europe for the opposition’s effort to remove Maduro. The trip’s high point for Guaidó came with a meeting inside the Oval Office with Trump the day after the U.S. president recognized him as the “legitimate president of Venezuela” during his State of the Union address.
Later Tuesday, Guaidó told a cheering crowd of about 500 supporters at a public square in the capital of Caracas that he is armed with the backing of the “free world” to finish the job of reclaiming the nation.
“Today more than ever we have to make our presence known,” Guaidó said, according to The Associated Press. “This is not the time to go back. It’s time to move forward.”
“There are things we cannot talk about … because we are confronting a dictatorship,” he continued, according to BBC. Guaidó, without going into detail, promised to increase “mechanisms of pressure” against the government in order to eventually oust Maduro.
Surrounded by the media, opposition leader Juan Guaido pumps his fist after a rally at Bolivar Plaza in Chacao, Venezuela, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Guaido returned home from a tour of nations that back his effort to oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
“We came to work and leave the rest, to do what is necessary to accomplish the goal,” he said.
Guaidó urged Venezuelans to remain unified and to take to the streets again to demonstrate their will to end Maduro’s government but did not immediately announce any plans for organized protests.
As the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress, Guaidó rose to prominence a year ago when he claimed presidential powers on the grounds that Maduro’s rule is illegitimate after his fraudulent reelection in 2018. He won backing from the United States and more than 50 other nations, though so far has made no visible dent in Maduro’s hold on power.
In his own speech broadcast on state television Tuesday, Maduro said, “Let’s not get distracted by stupidities, by dummies, by traitors to the homeland,” without mentioning Guaidó by name.
Meanwhile, Diosdado Cabello, Maduro’s second-in-command, slammed Guaidó’s three weeks abroad as a “tourism trip,” adding, “He is nothing,” according to BBC.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.