Juan Guaido’s first stop after he skipped out of Venezuela last week was Colombia. But after he failed to push food and medicine across the border to hasten the end of autocratic President Nicolas Maduro’s rule, he headed to Brazil.
On Friday, he was in Paraguay. Then it was on to Argentina.
The opposition leader insists he’ll be home soon, but his lengthening regional tour raises questions about just how and when he intends to get back to Caracas. Guaido, head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, risks not only being blocked from re-entering Venezuela, but being tossed into jail after violating a foreign-travel ban. Meanwhile, the amnesty he promised military officers who join him languishes in his own legislature, and resurgent street protests have lost their focal point.
The United States, which along with some 50 other nations recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader, has threatened severe repercussions if Maduro takes direct action against his chief rival. Still, Venezuela’s ruling socialists have already exiled or thrown hundreds of dissidents behind bars.
Guaido, a 35-year-old congressman, says his tour is meant to deepen ties with allies and plan how to defeat a dictatorship. Yet the longer he stays abroad, the greater the likelihood that his movement to unseat Maduro will lose momentum after the effort to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela was crushed last week.
“We will be back in Caracas very soon to continue the work we swore to do for all of Venezuela,” he said in Asuncion following a closed-door meeting with Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez.
Guaido is analyzing the effect of a potential jailing, while the government considers the repercussions of throwing him behind bars, said Felix Seijas, head of the Caracas polling firm Delphos.
“For the government, the best-case scenario is that Guaido doesn’t return,” Seijas said. In visiting allies, “Guaido is trying to raise the stakes of being imprisoned.”
Guaido says he will rally supporters when he returns to Venezuela, and he is promising another wave of protests.
“We will continue to occupy the streets of Venezuela despite the threats to our lives,” he said in Asuncion.