The former leader of Venezuela's opposition "interim government," Juan Guaido, arrived in Miami, Florida on Tuesday after entering Colombia the previous day. Guaido said he was "being expelled out of Colombia" in a video message to his followers on Twitter as he sat on a plane en route to the US.
His surprise arrival in Colombia came on the eve of a summit that aims to prepare the restarting of talks between the Venezuelan government under President Nicolas Maduro and opposition groups in Mexico.
But Colombian authorities did not take well to Guaido's unofficial entry into the country and accompanied him to an airport to leave for the US.
"Migration Colombia took Juan Guaido, a Venezuelan national who arrived irregularly in Bogota, to El Dorado airport with the aim of ensuring his departure to the United States on a commercial airline," Colombia's foreign ministry said late on Monday.
Colombian president Gustavo Petro rejected Guaido's accusations. "Mr. Guaido was not expelled and it is better that this lie does not appear in politics," wrote Petro on Twitter. "Mr. Guaido has an agreement to travel to the US. We allowed it for humanitarian reasons despite the illegal entry into the country," he added.
Why was Guaido in Colombia?
Guaido said that he had walked from Venezuela to Colombia, having hoped to meet with representatives from the Latin American, North American and European countries that are taking part in the summit.
"I have just arrived in Colombia, in the same way as millions of Venezuelans before me — on foot," he said.
"I hope the summit can guarantee that the Maduro regime will return to the negotiation table in Mexico and that a credible timeline can be agreed upon for free and fair elections to be held as a solution for the conflict."
Colombia's Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva said that Guaido, like Maduro, had not been invited to the summit and had entered the country inappropriately.
"After 60 hours on the road to get to Bogota, escaping the persecution of the dictatorship, defying the Maduro regime, they are taking me out of Colombia," Guaido later said in a video posted to Twitter in which he appeared to be inside a plane.
"Unfortunately, I must say that this persecution was also felt in Colombia," he later told reporters in Miami.
Why was Guaido flown to Miami?
The 39-year-old industrial engineer made headlines worldwide in 2019 when he headed up an "interim government" in opposition to Maduro's rule following elections in 2018 that were widely seen as fraudulent.
He was recognized by over 50 countries as Venezuela's legitimate leader, including the US as well as Colombia under former conservative President Ivan Duque.
However, Maduro was able to hold on to power and the symbolic opposition government was disbanded in January.
Colombia's leftist President Gustavo Petro has taken a different tack from his predecessor, pushing for talks and opposing sanctions against its neighbor.
Guaido's removal from the country by Colombian authorities has raised questions as to whether the leading opposition figure has been sent into exile, but Colombia's foreign ministry stressed that the plane ticket to Miami "had already been purchased by" Guaido.
ab/jcg (AFP, Reuters)