Tue | Mar 31, 2020

Guaidó to meet Pompeo in Colombia

Published:Monday | January 20, 2020 | 12:43 AM
Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaidó has travelled to Colombia to participate alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a regional counterterrorism meeting – a new show of support by the Trump administration for the man it says is the country’s legitimate leader.

From Bogota, Guaidó plans to travel to Europe and then possibly the US, two people close to the opposition leader said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss his travel plans.

While Guaidó’s itinerary in Europe is unknown, he’ll be travelling there as President Donald J. Trump is scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, from January 21 to 22. That could set the stage for a first meeting between Guaidó and Trump on the sidelines of the annual gathering of the world’s business and political elite.

Colombian President Iván Duque welcomed Guaidó in a tweet on Sunday and said he would hold a “working meeting” with him later.

It wasn’t clear how Guaidó left Venezuela, but it’s only the second time that he has defied a travel ban imposed by Venezuela’s pro-government supreme court and secretly moved across the border.

In his role as president of the National Assembly, Guaidó is recognised as Venezuela’s rightful leader by the US and more than 50 nations that consider Nicolás Maduro’s re-election invalid.

Any trip abroad entails huge risks.

Last February, after a 10-day tour of Latin American capitals that included a meeting in Bogota with US Vice-President Mike Pence, he risked arrest and returned home on a commercial flight with several foreign diplomats waiting for him at the Caracas international airport.

CAMPAIGN MOMENTUM LOST

Since then, he has struggled to maintain the momentum of his campaign to oust socialist leader Nicolás Maduro. Street protests have mostly fizzled and his call for a military uprising in April failed to break Maduro’s hold on the armed forces. Meanwhile, Maduro has found ways to circumvent US oil sanctions, limiting their impact by dollarizing wide swaths of the economy and quietly lifting longstanding currency and customs controls.

His visit to Colombia comes days after government loyalists attempted to engineer a takeover of the National Assembly.

In an interview last Friday with the Washington Post, Maduro offered to negotiate directly with the Trump administration in a bid to end the country’s political stalemate and address a humanitarian crisis that has led millions of Venezuelans to migrate.

AP