Guaido says Venezuela government silence due to 'contradictions'


Caracas (AFP)

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro kept his silence Tuesday more than 24 hours after opposition leader Juan Guaido, defying a threat of arrest, returned to a hero's welcome in Caracas.

"They're drowning in contradictions, they don't know how to respond to Venezuela's people," Guaido told reporters, referring to the Maduro regime.

Guaido, recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela's acting president, flouted a government travel ban to embark on a 10-day tour of South American allies seeking support for Maduro's ouster.

When Guaido returned to Caracas on Monday, tens of thousands of supporters turned out around the country to welcome him home.

Maduro's government had threatened to arrest him when he returned. Not only had it fail to do so by midday Tuesday but authorities also have made no comment on Guaido.

On Tuesday, a national holiday for carnival, Guaido met with public sector union leaders.

His return marks the latest challenge to Maduro's authority since the 35-year-old National Assembly leader declared himself acting president January 23, vowing to set up a transitional government and hold new elections.

The opposition-controlled legislature had declared Maduro to be a "usurper" for assuming a second term of office on the basis of a disputed election in May that was widely condemned as fraudulent.

During his travels, Guaido met with US Vice President Mike Pence and the leaders of Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile and Ecuador.

He crossed over into Colombia February 23 to lead a bid to bring in humanitarian aid stockpiled near the border, but the move was blocked by the military and security forces in a day of chaos and bloodshed.

Venezuela is wracked by a humanitarian crisis that has seen poverty soar with an estimated 2.7 million people leaving the country since 2015.