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Hero’s welcome as opposition leader Guaido returns to Venezuela

05 March 2019, Caracas (AFP)

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido received a hero’s welcome from thousands of flag-waving supporters chanting “Yes, you can!” as he returned to Caracas on Monday, defying the threat of arrest from embattled President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

“We know the risks we face, that’s never stopped us. The regime, the dictatorship must understand,” a defiant Guaido, who has been recognized as acting president by more than 50 countries, told a delirious crowd. “We’re stronger than ever, let’s carry on in the streets, mobilized.”

Supporters, media, and diplomats from allied countries mobbed Guaido on his arrival at the international airport in Caracas before he headed into the city for a tumultuous homecoming by thousands of supporters.

There, Guaido announced a new protest march for Saturday to ramp up the pressure on Maduro.

“All of Venezuela will return to the streets. We will not rest one second until freedom is achieved,” he said.

Venezuelans holding aloft flags, crosses and portraits of their young leader chanted: “Guaido! Guaido!” and “Yes you can!”

Just before his arrival, US Vice President Mike Pence sent a warning to Maduro to ensure Guaido’s safety, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later hailed his “safe return.”

“Any threats, violence, or intimidation against him will not be tolerated & will be met with swift response,” Pence wrote on Twitter. Pompeo said in a statement that “the international community must unite and push for the end of Maduro’s brutal regime.”

“The risk of arrest remains very real for Guaido,” said US Senator Marco Rubio, adding that it could happen when he is no longer surrounded by fans, press and diplomats. “The Maduro regime has perfected the bureaucratization of repression.”

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