Guaidó returns to Caracas: What next?

By Marco Terrugi
March 6, 2019

Originally published in; translation by Michael Otto.

March 4, evening — Juan Guaidó arrived at Simón Bolívar International Airport in Caracas soon after noon in Venezuela. His passport stamped upon arrival, he was received by ambassadors from France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Romania, among others, including his Venezuelan supporters. The diplomats’ presence was allegedly meant to guarantee that he would not be arrested, as was speculated might happen, since the Supreme Court of Justice had issued a ban on his leaving the country.

Even as he entered the country, a reception was being organized in Caracas, in Las Mercedes, the usual space for [counter-revolutionary] government opposition activities in the wealthy area of eastern Caracas. The opposition also mobilized in other parts of the country, such as in the city of Maracaibo.

U.S. threatened ‘severe measures’

The self-proclaimed president had announced his return through social networks starting several days earlier. On Sunday night, March 3, he posted a message through his twitter account calling for the campaign not to falter and to ratify his decision to follow the roadmap. In an interview, he stated that if he were arrested, it would be a coup d’état. Spokespeople for the U.S. government had asserted on their part that they would undertake severe measures should anything happen to him.

This tense situation was finally defused upon his arrival, which, unlike his departure, was through the airport and not by way of an illegal border road. The decision to let him enter in this way seems to have been motivated by the desire to avoid a scenario that would lead to further escalation within a framework of great instability.

Guaidó drove from the airport to Las Mercedes where he spoke to those who were waiting for him and a large number of national and international media. His speech focused on several points. First, it was about the elements necessary to achieve the objectives of an end to usurpation [which is what Guaidó calls Maduro’s election], establishing a transitional government and free elections: the unity of all opposition forces, mobilization in the streets and international support.

Second, he directed his message to the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB). He claimed that the chain of command was broken because he’s the president in charge and that is why they would not have stopped him when he arrived in the country. He also asserted that all but a small fraction of the troops support him.

And third, he called for two actions: a meeting with public sector unions for Tuesday, March 5, after which he’ll make an announcement; and a nationwide mobilization for Saturday, March 9. “Of course we can and of course we shall be able … the time is now, and the change is now,” he said.

During the event Guaidó displayed his passport and confirmed that he had entered legally. In other words, there is no existing arrest warrant against him; the violation of the prohibition to leave the country must be verified through an investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. He could only have been apprehended at the moment of leaving the country or by being served with a warrant upon his return. He also has parliamentary immunity as president of the National Assembly.

Guaidó withdrew from the square and the day ended tranquilly, as part of a carnival holiday where images of crowded beaches and activities for children in the city squares abound. Guaidó’s goal, to be triumphant because of international support and to have managed both to leave and especially to return, was achieved. The goal of the government, which was to avoid any kind of provocation, was also achieved. The balance of forces stayed the same.

For the moment uncertainties and questions remain, like the ones we were asking some time ago. The main one is: How do you think you are going to advance toward your first objective of an end to “usurpation,” that is, forcing Nicolás Maduro to leave the Miraflores Palace while the FANB is still intact? The following days will give greater indications of what the roadmap will be, nationally, internationally, publicly and through plans being developed under the table, which are linked to the threat of possible military actions by irregular forces directed from the United States and Colombia.