Speaking to a crowd who had come to the airport to greet him, Guaido said: “We are here in Venezuela and will continue moving forward.”

He called on Venezuelans to show “great strength and determination” and continue protesting the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

“We’re much stronger than ever,” he said.

Large crowds had gathered to welcome him home. Diplomats from some Western countries met him at the airport, including the ambassadors from Germany, the Netherlands, and France.

The Venezuelan opposition leader traveled despite a court-imposed travel ban ordering him not to leave the country.

The United States warned Monday of a “swift response” if Guaido was subjected to any threats or violence. “@jguaido’s safe return to Venezuela is of the highest importance to the US,” Vice President Mike Pence tweeted as Guaido arrived in Caracas.

“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,” Pence wrote.

Guaido had announced his departure from a naval air base in the Ecuadorian coastal town of Salinas on Twitter on Sunday, thanking Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno.

The opposition leader visited the leaders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina over the past week to rally support and build pressure on Venezuela’s acting president, Nicolas Maduro, to resign.

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Call for Protests

Guaido called on Venezuelans to gather for protests during the crisis-ridden South American country’s Carnival celebrations.

“If the usurper Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his accomplices dare to arrest me, we’ve drawn a clear plan, with clear instructions to follow for our international allies and brothers in Parliament,” he wrote on Twitter.

Several hundred supporters had gathered at a Caracas plaza, some carrying national flags, in anticipation of his arrival.

Guaido has declared himself Venezuela’s interim president and is recognized as such by the US and 60 other nations.

Should he be arrested, the move could be used by the opposition to highlight how Maduro’s government represses political foes and could lead to further sanctions by the United States.

His detention, however, could see the opposition lose its key public figurehead who has helped bring unity after years of infighting between Venezuela’s opposition parties.

(Photo by Gobierno de Venezuela / Wikimedia Commons)

Warnings from EU

On Saturday, the European Union warned Maduro’s government against arresting Guaido, saying such a move would “represent a major escalation of tensions and meet the firm condemnation of the international community.”

Guaido said he wants a “peaceful transition” that will allow his country to overcome a political and humanitarian crisis in the course of which as many as 3 to 4 million Venezuelans have been prompted to emigrate. The bulk of these migrants fled to neighboring Colombia in 2017.

The crisis led to hyperinflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine, which worsened under Maduro’s leadership.

Failed Aid Effort

Last weekend, Guaido coordinated a failed effort to bring aid from Colombia and Brazil into Venezuela, where security forces loyal to Maduro blocked the supplies.

Maduro has described Guaido’s gambit as part of a US-backed plot to overthrow him.

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