Juan Guaido, president of the National Assembly who swore himself in as the leader of Venezuela, speaks during a joint news conference with Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, not pictured, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil. (Photographer: Andre Coelho/Bloomberg)

Guaido Says He's Returning to Venezuela on Monday

(Bloomberg) -- Juan Guaido said he will return to Caracas for protest marches on Monday, risking arrest in his bid to end six of years of rule by Nicolas Maduro that have led Venezuela into poverty and revolt.

“Tomorrow we will return to our country. There is a risk on returning. Many politicians like Leopoldo Lopez and union leaders are imprisoned but if the government seizes me, there are clear steps to take. Mobilization is the first one and instructions to our allies,” the National Assembly leader said in a speech aired on social media on Sunday.

Guaido didn’t provide details about how he will enter the country. It’s also unclear whether Maduro’s forces will arrest him for violating a travel ban, as threatened. Guaido secretly left Venezuela in February, at first to oversee a delivery of aid provided by the U.S., which has led calls for governments to recognize him as interim president until an election can be held.

That delivery attempt, from Colombia and Brazil, ended in confrontations between supporters of Guaido and forces loyal to Maduro, including the army and paramilitary groups. Several people died and hundreds were wounded when Maduro’s forces opened fire and beat demonstrators, blocking the food and medicine piled at the border.

Last week, Guaido met U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Bogota, then traveled to Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador to meet leaders of those countries. They all back his push to depose Maduro, who is widely considered to have stolen elections last year.

“Any threats or acts against his safe return will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community,” National Security Adviser John Bolton wrote on Twitter.

While the 35-year-old opposition leader had received an invitation to visit Peru as part of the regional tour, he told reporters in Ecuador on Saturday he would instead return home.

“I announce my return to the country and call on marches across the country for Monday and Tuesday,” Guaido said on Twitter late Saturday.

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On Sunday, he sent a tweet thanking Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno along a picture of him on what appeared to be an airport tarmac. The Ecuadoran president’s office said that Guaido had boarded a plane, without saying where he was flying.

While Guaido has received much foreign backing since taking an oath in front of supporters on Jan. 23, his position inside the country is less firm. A quick flip of the military hasn’t materialized. Meanwhile, the U.S. has doubled down on financial and oil sanctions that will crimp Maduro’s access to hard currency.

Russia, China and Turkey still back the socialist government, though future financial support from those countries is a question mark and will be key to Maduro’s staying power.

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