Mexico City, 13 February 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Wednesday said President Nicolas Maduro was directly responsible for “whatever happens” to his uncle, who Guaido says was detained after they returned from a three-week international tour.
“Usurper Nicolas Maduro, I hold you and each one of your minions … responsible for whatever happens to Juan Jose Marquez, an honest and brave man who knows more than anyone the value of this fight,” Guaido said on Twitter.
Marquez was reportedly detained after arriving at the country’s main airport as part of a Guaido-led delegation on a tour to shore up support for the opposition leader’s bid to oust Maduro from office.
Guaido’s trip notably included a stop at the White House, where he was welcomed in a format typically reserved for heads of state. During his State of the Union address, US President Donald Trump said “Maduro’s grip on tyranny will be smashed and broken.”
The tour also included stops in London, Davos and Brussels, where Guaido called on the international community to ratchet up sanctions against Venezuela.
The opposition leader, who declared himself interim president last year and is recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate leader by more than 50 countries, staged a chaotic return on Tuesday, with thousands of people thronging the airport north of Caracas to witness it.
Despite being swarmed by pro-Maduro protesters, Guaido was able to leave the airport without being arrested for violating a Supreme Court-issued travel ban.
Before his arrival, his supporters reportedly clashed with employees of state-owned airline Conviasa, which was targeted by US sanctions last week.
The US embassy threw its weight behind Guaido’s interim government in demanding the release of Marquez.
“Kidnapping relatives of interim president @jguaido shows that the dictatorship is weak and desperate. We demand the immediate release of Juan Jose Marquez unharmed. Democracy cannot be intimidated, this must stop!” the embassy wrote on Twitter.
In March 2019, the US State Department suspended embassy operations in Caracas and withdrew its diplomatic personnel. It now operates a “virtual” embassy.
Maduro, who won a second term in a controversial election in 2018, has presided over an economic meltdown that has caused a mass exodus from Venezuela and has prompted mass demonstrations against his rule.
The UN issued a report last year documenting the arbitrary detainment, torture and killing of dissidents and ordinary citizens under Maduro.
Guaido has not succeeded in ousting Maduro in large part because he still has the support of the country’s powerful military.