Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has said he would return home after a visit to Ecuador and called for new protests next week against President Nicolas Maduro, whose government had banned him from travelling abroad.
Guaido has spent the past few days touring between Latin American countries to muster support for his campaign to form a transition government and overthrow Maduro, whom he denounces as an illegitimate usurper.
He had visited Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay after leaving Venezuela last week for Colombia to coordinate efforts there to send humanitarian aid into his country, though troops loyal to Maduro blocked a convoy of aid trucks and turned them back.
“As for the next steps for Venezuelans, I announce my return home from Ecuador,” Guaido told a news conference in the coastal town of Salinas alongside Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno.
Guaido did not say when exactly or how he would return to Venezuela. He is expected to leave Ecuador at 09:30am local time (14:30 GMT) on Sunday, according to the Ecuadorean government’s schedule for his visit.
“I announce my return to the country and I call for mobilisations in all the national territory,” Guaido wrote on Twitter.
His return opens the possibility that Venezuelan authorities will arrest him. The Supreme Court had imposed a travel ban on him after he invoked the country’s constitution on January 23 to assume an interim presidency, which most Western nations now recognise as legitimate.
Last week, Maduro said the opposition leader will have to face the consequences of his actions.
“He can come and go [but] he will have to face justice, and justice prohibited [him] from leaving the country. I will respect the laws,” Maduro told ABC news.
“No one can be above the law. In this case, Guaido has to answer before the justice and not before Nicolas Maduro,” the president added.
Guaido also called on the people to take to the streets on Monday and Tuesday, even though Venezuela, like other Latin American countries, was celebrating the Carnival holiday.
“Trying to manage the Guaido situation has become a real problem for the government because (Guaido) has grown so much politically,” said Luis Salamanca, a political scientist and constitutional law professor at Venezuela’s Central University.
‘All options be kept open’
Guaido called on his international backers to impose harsher measures to pressure Maduro and after the aid convoy’s failure, and proposed that “all options be kept open”.
While US President Donald Trump’s administration has not ruled out military intervention to dislodge Maduro, it is seen as unlikely and his Latin American allies have encouraged a mix of sanctions and diplomacy instead.
But analysts believe Guaido is running out of time. “The government is betting on resisting the challenge,” Ronal Rodriguez, a professor and researcher at the University of Rosario’s Venezuelan Observatory in Colombia told Al Jazeera.
“The situation is tense in the US for Donald Trump, what’s happening domestically might force him to focus on domestic issues and get him distracted from the situation in Venezuela. Brexit could end breaking up the EU stand, Germany and France are also facing their own internal problems.
“All the tensions taking place around the world might force international leaders to leave the Venezuelan case aside… meanwhile the current government is resisting, and they have shown resilience throughout time,” he added.
Guaido’s supporters also think the self-proclaimed interim president needs to keep up momentum.
“If he doesn’t, he will end up being another failed leader of the opposition,” Jesus Barreto, a 21-year old told Reuters. “He needs to keep challenging the government.”