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As Guaidó Returns to Venezuela, Pence Threatens 'Swift Response' If Opposition Leader Arrested

Leader of right-wing opposition—attempting to overthrow the elected government with the help of the Trump administration—claims it "would be a coup d'état" if he was detained

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó waves after a meeting with Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno in Salinas, Ecuador on March 2, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Daniel Tapia)

If Venezuelan authorities detain opposition leader Juan Guaidó there will be a "swift response" from the Trump administration, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence threatened Monday.

Guaidó—who re-entered the country on Monday after leaving in violation of a travel ban imposed by the Supreme Court—arrived at Venezuela's Simón Bolívar International Airport in Caracas and successfully cleared immigration checks, the Associated Press reported. The opposition leader was greeted at the airport by senior diplomats from Latin America, Europe, and the United States.

"We are here to receive President Juan Guaidó," James Story, the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela, told reporters.

In a tweet on Monday, Pence said Guaidó's "safe return to Venezuela is of the highest importance to the U.S."

"Any threats, violence, or intimidation against him will not be tolerated and will be met with swift response," Pence said. "The world is watching—Interim President Guaidó must be allowed to re-enter Venezuela safely."

Venezuela's elected President Nicolás Maduro suggested in an interview last month that Guaidó could face arrest upon his return to Venezuela, saying the opposition leader "can't just come and go" in violation of a court order.

"He will have to face justice, and justice prohibited him from leaving the country," Maduro told ABC News.

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Asked in an interview on Sunday if he fears being detained, Guaidó told the Washington Post that arresting him would be "the usurper's last mistake."

"This would be a coup d'état," Guaidó declared. "And it would be harshly and strongly rejected by both the Venezuelan people and the international community."

A coup is precisely what international observers and progressive critics have accused Guaidó of attempting with the support of many European countries and the Trump administration, which immediately recognized the opposition leader after he proclaimed himself the interim president in January.

As Common Dreams reported, Pence, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and national security adviser John Bolton have each played central roles in behind-the-scenes efforts to oust Maduro and install Guaidó as interim president.

Guaidó's return to Venezuela came after Bolton continued to lob threats at Venezuela's elected government, warning of "a strong and significant response" from the U.S. if Maduro takes any action against the opposition leader.

In an interview on CNN, Bolton invoked the "Monroe Doctrine" to justify U.S. meddling in Venezuela's internal affairs and brushed aside a question about America's support for brutal dictators throughout the world.

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