Guaido plans return to Venezuela; Maduro expels Univision’s Ramos


Venezuelan self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido (l.), stands next to US Vice President Mike Pence during a conference in Bogota on Monday, Feb. 25. EFE-EPA/Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda

BOGOTÁ.- Venezuelan self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido was planning his return to Caracas on Tuesday just as Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos and his team were returning to Miami after Venezuela’s incumbent president, Nicolas Maduro, ordered them deported.

Guaido traveled to the Colombian border city of Cucuta last Friday for a concert organized by British billionaire Richard Branson, meant to raise money for humanitarian relief in Venezuela.

The opposition leader remained in Colombia for what turned out to be an abortive effort to bring US humanitarian aid into Venezuela, which is suffering from hyperinflation and shortages.

On Monday, Guaido took part in a gathering in Bogota with US Vice President Mike Pence and representatives of the so-called Lima Group.

The United States is in the vanguard of the roughly 50 countries, including the major European powers except Italy, that have recognized Guaido.

Founded in the Peruvian capital in August 2017, the Lima Group comprises Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Guyana and St. Lucia.

Mexico, however, has distanced itself from the group since the other members recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader over Maduro.

After Monday’s meeting, Guaido said on Caracol Television that he would return to Caracas this week to resuming «exercising» his functions as interim president.

Until last week, Guaido had not set foot outside Venezuela since declaring himself acting head of state on Jan. 23.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which supports Maduro, barred Guaido from leaving the country while he remained under investigation for his attempt to seize power.

But Guaido said Tuesday that he was «not under any order,» dismissing Venezuela’s attorney general and Supreme Court as usurpers.

Ramos and his Univision colleagues arrived back in Miami Tuesday afternoon after spending hours in custody in Caracas in the wake of a contentious interview with Maduro at the presidential palace.

Ramos and his team were detained after Maduro became upset over the broadcaster’s questions and a video he showed the Venezuelan leader.

«I asked him if I can call him either a president or a dictator because millions of Venezuelans do not consider him a president. Then we discussed the flood that happened here, May 2018, also the reports of torture and human rights abuses of political prisoners,» Ramos said in a video aired by Univision.

«And at the end, I showed him a video that I personally took last Sunday of three kids behind a trash truck, looking for food. And, he just couldn’t stand it. He did not want to continue the interview,» Ramos said.

Ramos said that Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez then declared the interview unauthorized and «confiscated all our cameras, all our video, all our cell-phones.»

Maduro’s administration has repeatedly claimed that the press, particularly foreign media, spreads misinformation about the crisis in Venezuela.

On his return to Miami, Ramos challenged Maduro to release the video footage that was seized by Venezuelan authorities.

Representatives of the US and Venezuela crossed swords Tuesday in the UN Security Council during a special session on the situation in the Andean nation, convened at Washington’s request.

«We call on the members of the Security Council to join us in meeting the growing needs in Venezuela and the region. We call on member states to consider what resources and tools they have to contribute to Venezuelan democracy and to pressure the illegitimate Maduro regime to peacefully step down,» the US special representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said.

He said that the world should back Guaido and «address the destabilizing results of Maduro’s corrupt, fraudulent and incompetent reign, which just this weekend brought instability and violence» to the borders of Brazil and Colombia.

Abrams was referring to clashes that occurred Saturday as Guaido supporters tried to force their way into Venezuela with US-donated aid rejected by Maduro as a stalking horse for military invention.

Four people died on the Brazilian border and more than 200 others were injured in disturbances on the boundary with Colombia.

In his remarks, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza asked the Security Council to pass a resolution rejecting «the threat and the use of force» against his country.

Citing what he described as US preparations for war in Venezuela, he urged the council to «exclude that option completely,» after Abrams reiterated Washington’s «all options are on the table» position.

The foreign minister said that the violence last weekend on the Colombian border was initiated by Guaido supporters who accompanied the trucks loaded with aid, emphasizing that most of the wounded were members of the Venezuelan security forces.

«That was the last chapter in the coup on Saturday,» he said, before directly addressing Abrams in English: «Read my lips – it failed. Now is the time for us to return to sanity.»

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