In a diplomatic free fall for the Colombian Government, just hours before President Gustavo Petro welcomed the representatives of Venezuela’s opposition parties, Juan Guaidó abandoned Colombia for the United States.
The so-called Convention on Venezuela hosted by the Colombian Government at the San Carlos Palace in Bogotá, aims to jump start dialogue on restoring democracy to Venezuela. The high-profile event guided by Norwegian diplomats comes less than a week after President Petro met U.S President Joe Biden at the White House. The Convention is being attended by diplomats from 19 nations, as well as a senior delegation from Washington led by President Biden’s Latin America advisor Juan González.
The formal talks, however, have excluded one key opposition leader recognized by a host of nations (including the U.S from 2019 to January 2023), as the legitimate President of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó. Guaidó slipped across the Venezuela-Colombia border on Monday to attend the Convention in Bogotá. Having not formalized his migration status with Venezuelan, nor Colombian, border agents, Colombia’s Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva confirmed that Guaidó was in the country as an “irregular”, and therefore could be fined – or worse yet – expelled.
On Tuesday morning, Guaidó issued a statement from Bogotá’s El Dorado airport before boarding a flight to Miami. In his statement, Guaidó reprimanded the government of Gustavo Petro, saying: “Given direct threats against my family and daughters by the Maduro regime, and threats that now extend to Colombia, I am taking this flight. I will continue fighting for free and fair elections in Venezuela.”
Guaidó’s sudden departure from Colombia was taken as a expulsion order from the Colombian Government, claim denied by Foreign Minister Leyva. “This is not a country that expels (foreigners). Colombia is a country that seeks to comply with the Constitution and the law,” said Leyva. Colombian opposition Senator Paloma Valencia rebuked Leyva, stating on Twitter that the Colombian government should be ashamed. “How is it that Colombia, which has always been a democracy, is going to be on the side of the tyrants?” President Petro attempted to defuse the controversy over Guaidó’s alleged “deportation” highlighting that had Guaidó asked for asylum “I would gladly have offered it.”
Colombian news outlet Semana affirms, based on a source in Caracas, that Guaidó was “forced to leave Colombia” on a order given by the regime’s Nicolás Maduro, in exchange that his wife Fabiana Rosales, and daughters, can reunite with him stateside. “It was a way for the Colombian Government to wash its hands clean of Maduro’s crimes,” mentions the source.
Guaidó is a close political ally of former President Iván Duque, and had not left Venezuela since 2020 when he visited Bogotá as a guest of the Colombian head of state.
According to Colombia’s Migration entity, Migración Colombia, the Venezuelan leader was given a commercial plane ticket from U.S authorities to travel to Miami. As talks get underway in Bogotá, Venezuela’s Maduro stated from Caracas that unless U.S President Joe Biden lift all sanctions on “the Venezuelan people” he will not recognize the opposition’s demands for democratic elections to take place any time soon.
News that pro-democracy leader Guaidó may seek political asylum in the U.S., after having been shunned by Colombia has overshadowed the Bogotá talks, and threatens to plunge the Petro government into a deep credibility crisis with the U.S., and representatives of the global community who still recognize Guaidó as the legitimate leader of a divided Venezuelan opposition.