Venezuelan opposition leader Guaidó returns home after tour

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó returned home Tuesday, arriving on a commercial flight to the nation’s main airport near Caracas without incident following a risky international tour that included a White House meeting with President Donald Trump.

Guaido walked from the airport pumping his right hand over his head. Outside, less friendly crowds awaited him.

“Dirty traitor!” and “Get out!” they shouted as an SUV whisked him away. Guaidó backers shouted his name in support: “Guaidó! Guaidó!”

Guaidó launched the trip with the goal of redoubling his backing in Washington and Europe to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro. The trip’s high-point came with a meeting inside the Oval Office with Trump, after the U.S. president recognized him as the “legitimate president of Venezuela.”

“I’m bringing with me the commitment of the free world willing to help us recover democracy and freedom,” Guaidó said on Twitter upon his return. “We begin a new moment.”

The opposition leader rose to prominence a year ago, claiming presidential powers, contending that Maduro’s rule is illegitimate after fraudulent election in 2018. He won backing from the United States among more than 50 other nations.

Guaidó left Venezuela in mid-January, defying a travel ban ordered by the government-friendly supreme court that put his safe return in jeopardy.

In addition to his stop in Washington, Guaidó met European leaders including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Guaidó urged them to increase their support for for Venezuelans trying to shrug off two decades of socialist rule that has left the country broken as millions have emigrate.

Officials in the Trump administration have said they are considering ways to exert more pressure to force out Maduro. On Friday, the administration hit the Venezuelan state-run airline CONVIASA with sanctions.

On his return, Guaidó urged Venezuelans to remain unified and to take the streets again, demonstrating their will to end the socialist government that the opposition leaders calls a “dictatorship.”

Opposition lawmakers who met him at the airport said they were heading to a public square in Caracas. Officials in Maduro’s government did not immediately comment on Guaidó’s return.

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Follow Scott Smith on Twitter: @ScottSmithAP

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