Venezuela’s most prominent opposition leader Juan Guaidó said late Monday he had been forced out of Colombia hours after crossing the border into the country following threats from the Venezuelan government.
Speak in a movie on Twitter, Mr Guaidó said he had entered Colombia with plans to meet with political representatives who had gathered to discuss Venezuela’s future. But instead of welcoming him, he said, the Colombians kicked him out.
“The persecution of the dictatorship has unfortunately extended to Colombia today,” he said from what appeared to be an airplane. He said he was on his way to the United States.
Late Monday, Colombia’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that Guaidó had been “irregular” in Bogotá and that migration officials had taken him to the airport “with the intention of verifying his departure on a commercial airline to the United States.”
A representative of the government of Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro did not respond to a request for more information.
In 2019, Mr. Guaidó rose from a little-known Venezuelan legislator to a national hero after declaring Mr. Maduro an illegitimate ruler and himself interim head of state. At the time, he posed the greatest threat to a deeply undemocratic and unpopular president who had helped plunge Venezuela into an economic and humanitarian crisis.
Dozens of countries recognized Mr. Guaidó as the country’s new leader, most notably the United States. But Guaidó ultimately failed to oust Maduro, and late last year his own opposition colleagues voted to dissolve his interim government and abolish his title as interim president. Their assessment was that the strategy of a parallel government could not bring about political change and that a new path was needed.
Maduro has imprisoned hundreds of political opponents over the years and many have already fled to other countries, including Colombia. But Mr. Guaidó remained in Caracas with his family, thinking that the arrest of such a prominent leader would make Mr. Maduro even less popular at home and abroad.
Venezuela and Colombia share a long border and many cultural and economic ties, but their relationship became particularly strained under the previous Colombian government, led by President Iván Duque, a conservative.
Mr. Petro, Colombia’s new leftist president, has restored diplomatic relations between the countries, which were severed in 2019, and has met several times with Mr. Maduro. Mr. Petro has tried to position himself as a mediator between Maduro’s government; the large, often divided Venezuelan opposition, of which Mr. Guaidó is only one player; and the rest of the world.
He met with President Biden in Washington last week, and the two leaders issued a joint statement condemning “all forms of authoritarianism and aggression in the world” and expressing interest in a “solution to the situation in Venezuela.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Petro will host a meeting with representatives from about 20 countries to discuss the future of Venezuela. Two National Security Council officials in Washington, Jon Finer and Juan Gonzalez, are expected to attend, along with former Senator Chris Dodd.
On Monday, Colombian Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva issued a statement clarifying that Mr Guaidó had not been invited to the meeting.