Juan Guaidó interview: Venezuelan opposition politician on escape to Miami Lalrp


BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Earlier than he escaped to Miami final week, earlier than he tried to crash a world convention to which he was not invited, Juan Guaidó traveled quietly throughout Venezuela by street. At one level, the embattled opposition politician says, he was transported behind an ambulance to keep away from public discover.

Guaidó, fleeing what he says had been threats of arrests by the Venezuelan authorities, crossed the border to Colombia and made his strategy to Bogotá. The worldwide summit right here, he hoped, would offer a window of alternative through which sympathetic officers of the U.S. and different overseas governments may preserve him protected and assist his trigger — the top of the authoritarian socialist authorities of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

As a substitute, he mentioned in an interview with The Washington Publish, he was met with “threats of deportation” from the Colombian authorities and felt “stress” from a U.S. official to get on a aircraft out of Colombia.

U.S. and Colombian officers inform a distinct story. And as Guaidó makes a tour by means of Washington to satisfy with Biden administration officers and lawmakers, some analysts are describing his journey as political theater by a once-influential determine capitalizing on his final remaining relevance: The assist of politicians in america.

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“He’s attempting to current himself as a sufferer,” mentioned David Smilde, a Tulane College sociologist who research Venezuela. “It was basically dishonest, but it surely performed to his power, and his power is in D.C.”

Guaidó was scheduled to talk at an occasion on the Wilson Middle on Wednesday and the meet with Democratic and Republican lawmakers Wednesday and Thursday.

Three years in the past, Guaidó was acknowledged by america and greater than 50 different international locations as Venezuela’s rightful chief. Maduro had claimed victory in a fraudulent election, the argument went, and Guaidó, as president of Venezuela’s Nationwide Meeting, was the highest-ranking authorities official who had been democratically elected.

However mass protests, appeals to overseas governments and an abortive rebellion did not dislodge Maduro, and in December, fellow opposition leaders voted to dissolve Guaidó’s so-called interim authorities.

Authorities threats towards his security escalated, he instructed The Publish, and the 39-year-old father of two started exploring choices to depart Venezuela. Round early April, he mentioned, he acquired telephone calls from two high-ranking officers within the Maduro authorities who warned his arrest was imminent.

The Maduro authorities has lengthy prohibited Guaidó from leaving the nation, which means the most suitable choice could be to slide throughout the border to Colombia over land. He determined to take action final week, a day earlier than Colombian President Gustavo Petro was as a consequence of host a world summit in geared toward jump-starting a dialogue between Venezuela’s authorities and its adversaries. Neither Maduro’s authorities nor the opposition had been invited to take part.

As soon as in Colombia, Guaidó contacted Ambassador James Story, who heads the Venezuela Affairs Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, and Juan González, the senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs on the U.S. Nationwide Safety Council. Guaidó’s intention, he mentioned, was to satisfy with officers on the town for the summit and keep in Colombia for a stretch. However he felt “pressured” by Colombian officers and González to depart the nation instantly.

Jonathan Reynaga, a Guaidó adviser who met him in Bogotá and traveled with him to Miami, mentioned he noticed a dialog through which González “at no stage confirmed empathy for his safety or his household’s.”

“All that Juan González implies and cares about is that he take the aircraft as quickly as potential as a result of he doesn’t wish to take the highlight away from the summit,” Reynaga mentioned.

A U.S. official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate the delicate matter, mentioned it was not correct to characterize the journey as an expulsion by Colombian authorities. Guaidó determined to depart Colombia voluntarily, the official mentioned. Had he turned down the U.S. provide of a flight to Miami, the U.S. delegation would have provided him a seat on their aircraft returning to america after the summit. Had he chosen to remain in Colombia, the U.S. official mentioned, it was unlikely Guaidó would have been deported to Venezuela. He may have stayed and requested asylum.

Guaidó’s public try to crash a world convention pissed off Colombian officers, in response to the U.S. official and others who had been carefully concerned.

Whereas Venezuelan opposition leaders weren’t invited to the convention itself, the Petro authorities convened a gathering just a few days earlier with key members of the their negotiating group and invited Guaidó’s Fashionable Will get together to ship a consultant. The consultant didn’t attend the assembly; Guaidó blamed logistical challenges.

When Guaidó himself entered the nation uninvited, Colombian officers feared his presence would disrupt and distract from the convention.

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In an try to defuse the strain and guarantee Guaidó’s security, the official mentioned, his U.S. contacts invited him to Story’s residence, the place Colombian authorities interviewed him. The 2 governments then organized for his transport to a snug location at Bogotá’s El Dorado Worldwide Airport — in neither a terminal nor a VIP room nor a detention space — and his flight to Florida, the official mentioned. He was escorted to the airport by Colombian officers and accompanied by U.S. officers.

Some Colombian authorities suspected Guaidó was contemplating getting into Colombia, in response to a Colombian who’s carefully concerned in discussions between the Colombian and Venezuelan governments. “He was ready for the best second to do it, to generate the best political affect,” mentioned the individual, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to talk freely in regards to the matter. Guaidó’s get together, the individual mentioned, wished to “torpedo” Colombia’s efforts to restart negotiations between the Maduro authorities and the opposition.

Colombian Overseas Minister Álvaro Leyva mentioned final week that Guaidó had come to the nation “for the noise that he himself produces.” He mentioned his arrival caught Colombian officers abruptly.

“Right here we’ve not closed our doorways to anybody,” Leyva mentioned. “This isn’t a rustic that expels, it is a nation that merely appears to be like to adjust to the Structure and the regulation.”

Petro tweeted that the Colombian authorities would have “gladly provided” Guaidó asylum if he had requested for it. “There was no have to enter the nation illegally,” he mentioned. “He was provided a transit allow, he was not deported again to his nation and with the permission of the U.S. he flew to that nation.”

Geoff Ramsey, a senior fellow on Venezuela on the Atlantic Council, mentioned it was clear they determined they may have extra affect in Miami than in Caracas.”

“Guaidó had a possibility for his consultant to satisfy with Petro,” Ramsey mentioned. “The truth that they boycotted that assembly raises questions on his dedication to the general negotiations.”

Guaidó, as soon as a unifying determine in Venezuela towards the Maduro authorities, has seen his recognition at dwelling plummet. As opposition politicians put together for a major election this yr forward of deliberate presidential elections in 2024, polls present Guaidó behind a number of candidates. His get together has been important of efforts to barter instantly with Maduro; he has argued as a substitute for extra worldwide stress and sanctions towards Maduro and his authorities.

However Guaidó additionally confronted repeated threats towards his security. After his escape from Venezuela, he mentioned, these threats prolonged to his spouse and kids again in Caracas.

His spouse, Fabiana Rosales, instructed The Publish that family members started receiving telephone calls threatening to kidnap and hurt her and the couple’s daughters, ages 6 and 1. She determined to depart the nation, however feared she may very well be barred from doing so: her Venezuelan passport has expired and the kids lacked correct Venezuelan journey paperwork.

So Rosales and the kids additionally traveled by land. She packed her baggage and instructed their 6-year-old daughter that her father had discovered work outdoors of the nation they usually had been going to go meet him. “We’re going to reside the journey of Dora,” Rosales instructed her daughter, a fan of Dora the Explorer. She took the 6-year-old to her faculty to say a short goodbye to her pals.

After a drive of practically 10 hours, at occasions on poorly lit roads and near operating out of gasoline, Rosales and her daughters crossed the border by foot. Rosales wore a face masks to keep away from being acknowledged.

That they had heard that border authorities on the bridge entrances had been rigorously checking documentation of Venezuelans crossing into Colombia. So she went a distinct manner, crossing a river in an space recognized to be managed by guerrilla teams. Because the water reached practically waist excessive, her daughters had been carried on the shoulders of individuals serving to them cross. They completed the final stretch of the river by boat, after which walked by means of a forested space to discover a taxi to an immigration workplace.

“Probably the most tough day of my life was ready for my daughters to cross the border,” Guaidó mentioned.

Rosales and their daughters finally made it to Bogotá after which to Miami. They reunited with Guaidó Monday at Miami Worldwide Airport.

Guaidó mentioned he doesn’t know the way lengthy the household will keep in america. They’re at the moment within the nation on vacationer visas. Guaidó mentioned he hopes to return to Venezuela to journey the nation and marketing campaign within the upcoming major for the opposition’s nomination. However he’ll be staying in Miami, he mentioned, “till we all know it’s protected to return.”

Venezuelan opposition chief Juan Guaidó reunited together with his spouse and two kids on Could 1 in Miami after they crossed the Venezuelan border by foot. (Video: Guaidó household handout)

Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.