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.
— TVVenezuela Noticias (@TVVnoticias) March 4, 2019
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."
.@JGuaido’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 & will be met with swift response. The world is watching - Interim President Guaido must be allowed to re-enter Venezuela safely.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) March 4, 2019
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.
.@AmbJohnBolton on Venezuela: “I’d like to see as broad a coalition as we can put together to replace Maduro”@jaketapper: Do you not see US support for other dictators around the world undermines the credibility of your argument?
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) March 3, 2019