Juan Guaido, newly vulnerable to arrest, says he is prepared to be imprisoned by the autocratic regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and has a contingency plan for allies to continue the protest movement he leads.
“In the event that they want to, or try to, kidnap me, which they can do without a doubt, there is a complete strategy ready to continue with leadership, but also to intensify pressure,’’ Guaido said in an interview following a conference on the opposition’s policy plans to remedy Venezuela’s crisis. An arrest “would only catalyze local and international pressure, and I dare say, would be one of the government’s final erratic political actions.’’
Venezuelan law has afforded Guaido, 35, immunity from prosecution because he is the head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly. But Maduro created a so-called Constituent Assembly to bypass that legislature, making it politically omnipotent and stacking it with socialist-party loyalists. On Tuesday, it stripped Guaido of protection, because he defied a travel ban to tour Latin American countries that support regime change in Venezuela.
Guaido has galvanized a fractious opposition and rallied his countrymen and most of the western world behind him. Soon after taking the reins of the toothless legislature in January, he invoked a constitutional provision to launch an interim government after Maduro began another six-year term following 2018 elections widely regarded as rigged. The U.S. and about 50 other nations quickly recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful head of state.
But Maduro continues to control the crucial security and military apparatus and receives support from Russia and China. His regime has cracked down on dissent and opened a probe into Guaido. He is accused of inciting violence, lying about his personal finances and was barred from leaving the country. Guaido calls it persecution.
“What we see is a government without a response to the crisis,’’ Guaido said. “They’re trying to dominate a society that’s at a boiling point.’’