Juan Guaido, president of the National Assembly, center, Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the National Assembly, left, and Stalin Gonzalez, second vice president of the National Assembly, stand while the national anthem is played following a swearing in ceremony at the Federal Legislative Palace in Caracas, Venezuela. (Photographer: Marco Bello/Bloomberg)  

Guaido's Safety Is at Risk in Return to Venezuela, U.S. Envoy Warns

(Bloomberg) -- The safety of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is at risk as he prepares to return to his country and embattled President Nicolas Maduro remains in power, the top U.S. envoy for the crisis told the United Nations Security Council.

Elliott Abrams, in charge of steering U.S. policy on Venezuela, told the council on Tuesday that the Trump administration is “deeply concerned” about Guaido’s well-being, hours after Maduro said in an interview with ABC News that the National Assembly leader “will have to face justice.”

Abrams told reporters before the council meeting that the U.S. would seek to advance a resolution as early as this week “calling for the admission of humanitarian aid into Venezuela.”

Guaido's Safety Is at Risk in Return to Venezuela, U.S. Envoy Warns

Guaido was in Colombia for a meeting of the Lima Group of nations after a weekend of violent border clashes in which Venezuela’s opposition largely failed to break Maduro’s blockade against humanitarian aid for his country. Maduro said the aid convoys were a pretext for a foreign invasion, and his forces crushed the effort with tear gas, plastic buckshot and bullets, killing an estimated four people and wounding an additional 200.

“Council members, it is our duty to ensure that Interim President Guaido is able to return home freely and safely,” Abrams said. He urged Security Council members to support “free, fair, and transparent” elections that embrace “all sectors of society and all political parties.”

The U.S. and several dozen countries in Latin America and Europe recognize Guaido as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela and are demanding that Maduro step down. It wasn’t immediately clear when Guaido would attempt to return to Venezuela.

Guaido's Safety Is at Risk in Return to Venezuela, U.S. Envoy Warns

Russia’s UN envoy Vassily Nebenzya accused the Americans of using humanitarian aid as cover for its efforts to topple the Venezuelan government. The U.S. is using “human shields” to transfer its cargo through a sovereign border in a situation that is reminiscent of 1986 in Nicaragua, when U.S. humanitarian aid turned out to include assistance to the rebels known as the Contras, he added.

“Lets call a spade a spade, this is not humanitarian assistance,” he said. “If the U.S. were genuinely wishing to help the Venezuelan people then they would operate through UN agencies active in Venezuela.”

Abrams responded that Russia was reviving a Cold War mentality and that any aid delivered through the current government would be stolen from the Venezuelan people.

Moscow and Washington have been circulating rival resolutions on the Venezuelan crisis to a divided Security Council. Both the U.S. and Russia wield veto power at the UN and are likely to block each other’s resolutions.

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