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Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó spent the last three weeks on a world tour during which the global elite feted him as Venezuela’s true president, but when he returned home Tuesday, he was greeted by angry crowds of pro-government demonstrators who attacked him, chanting “murderer” and “fascist.”
One employee of the state-run airline Conviasa even poured a can of soda on him.
Guaidó arrived home on a commercial flight from Lisbon on Tuesday, having departed the country just over three weeks ago in defiance of a travel ban imposed by President Nicolás Maduro’s government.
But any fears of Guaidó being detained were unfounded: He breezed through Customs and tweeted out a picture of himself at passport control.
However, in the arrivals hall, Guaidó was confronted by an angry mob of Maduro supporters who pulled and dragged the politician, who tried and failed to overthrow Maduro in a coup last year.
More pro-government demonstrators greeted him outside, hitting his car with sticks and traffic cones while shouting abuse, calling him a “dirty traitor.” Some journalists covering Guaidó’s return reported being attacked and robbed during the incident.
The scenes at Simón Bolívar International Airport on Tuesday were a marked departure from what Guaidó experienced during his 23-day world tour, which was designed to drum up support for a renewed push to oust Maduro.
He was feted at the World Economic Forum in Davos and cheered as a hero by supporters in Spain. He was welcomed as the official head of state by Boris Johnson in the U.K. and Emmanuel Macron in France, two of 50 countries that recognize him as Venezuela’s true leader.
Donald Trump made him a special guest at his State of the Union address and met him in the Oval Office, promising further sanctions against Maduro.
But back home, Guaidó faces the challenge of reigniting a stalled opposition movement, with lawmakers divided on the best strategy to remove Maduro. In a speech to supporters in Caracas on Tuesday evening, Guaidó sought to unite the opposition by focusing on Maduro.
“Today, I challenged them and we entered Venezuela,” Guaidó told the crowd. “We will continue to challenge them in every corner of Venezuela. Cowards. They are alone and isolated, and they do not represent anyone. Coward Nicolás. You won’t confront me or the people who want you gone for good.”
In a televised speech later on Tuesday, Maduro responded by saying: “We don’t waste time on bozos.”
Cover: Government supporters, left and front, fight with a member of the opposition who is awaiting the arrival of opposition leader Juan Guaido at the Simon Bolivar International Airport in La Guaira, Venezuela, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)