DPA/AFP Mexico City
Venezuela’s self-declared interim government has called for the release of opposition leader Juan Guaido’s uncle, who it says was “kidnapped” after returning to Caracas from an international tour.
“We denounce the disappearance of Juan Jose Marquez, who accompanied Guaido on the plane arriving in Venezuela,” Guaido’s office said on Twitter.
Marquez was reportedly detained after arriving at the country’s main airport as part of a delegation that undertook a three-week international tour to shore up support for Guaido’s bid to oust President Nicolas Maduro from office.
The trip – which saw Guaido slip out of the country in defiance of a travel ban – notably included a stop at the White House. It also included stops in London, Davos and Brussels.
Guaido declared himself interim president last year and is recognised as Venezuela’s legitimate leader by more than 50 countries. Despite mass demonstrations in Venezuela, he 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.
Other critics of Maduro’s government who weighed in on behalf of Marquez yesterday included Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organisation of American States (OAS).
“We demand immediate information on the whereabouts of Juan Jose Marquez ... who disappeared after arriving in Venezuela. We hold the government responsible for his well-being,” Almagro wrote on Twitter.
Shortly before Guaido’s arrival in the country fighting broke out between his followers — including several lawmakers — and Maduro’s supporters.
“Guaido, fascist!” shouted employees of the state-run airline Conviasa, which was subjected to US sanctions last week, who had entered the area where the 36-year-old’s backers were waiting for him.
Several diplomats were present. Videos circulating on social media appear to show Guaido sprayed with soda by an airline worker.
The opposition leader seemed to laugh it off.
Guaido promised new sanctions against the government would be coming soon, and called for renewed protests.
In a veiled reference to Guaido’s return, Maduro called on his supporters to focus on “defending Venezuela.” “Let’s not get distracted by stupidities, by dummies, by traitors to the homeland,” he said at a ceremony broadcast on state television.
Maduro’s number two Diosdado Cabello said on Monday that he didn’t expect much of anything to change after Guaido’s travels, which he called a “tourism trip.” “He is nothing,” Cabello said.
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