Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó said Tuesday that he is not seeking political asylum in the United States and does not rule out the possibility of running for presidential primaries in his homeland scheduled for October.
Guaidó spoke to The Associated Press by phone from Miami, where he arrived on a commercial flight from the Colombian capital Monday night, hours after crossing the border between that country and Venezuela with the intention of meeting with diplomats and others. participants in an international conference. focused on the political crisis in Venezuela.
“I will have work meetings and obviously also time to assess the security situation, among other things,” he said. “I am not applying for political asylum at this time.”
His remarks came after Colombian authorities said he was subject to administrative proceedings for having crossed the border without having his passport stamped upon entry, like millions of Venezuelans who have left their country in search of better living conditions. Colombian President Gustavo Petro insisted that Guaidó was not deported and traveled to the United States with permission from that country.
Guaidó told AP the US government intervened after he was threatened with deportation after crossing the border and intended to take a flight from Cúcuta, a Colombian city near the border, to the capital Bogotá.
“Basically, there was a threat that this could be grounds for deportation,” he said. “That was by telephone (with) diplomatic officials… It was thanks to the mediation of the United States that in my case I feel that I could not have been deported.”
He said a US government official gave him the ticket to Miami after Colombian immigration agents escorted him to the Bogota airport. His wife and his two daughters remain in Venezuela, for which he is deeply concerned. He said that he is exploring “all options” regarding his future.
Guaidó became one of Venezuela’s most recognizable opposition figures after several countries called President Nicolás Maduro’s 2018 re-election a sham. Guaidó, in his position as head of the National Assembly of Venezuela, proclaimed himself interim president in 2019 with the backing of dozens of nations, including the US, and led a parallel government.
But his popularity has since waned and opposition lawmakers voted in January to remove him from that post and instead appoint a committee to run that government.
Guaidó has been campaigning recently ahead of primaries scheduled for October in which the opposition intends to pick a single candidate to face Maduro in next year’s presidential election. On Tuesday, he said the primaries “remain a very important short-term goal.”
“Right now I have this situation of persecution, and ruling something out at this time would simply be accepting the conditions of a dictatorship,” he said, referring to his participation in the primaries. “On the contrary, we fight for conditions for everyone.”
The international conference on Tuesday organized by Petro was aimed at boosting official dialogue between the Maduro government and its adversaries. Formal negotiations between the two parties led by Norwegian diplomats and hosted by Mexico stalled at the end of last year.
Colombian Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva said on Monday that Guaidó was not invited to the conference, which was attended by representatives of the United States, as well as Latin American and European countries.
South Florida is home to a large Venezuelan community that began arriving mainly after Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, came to power in 1999.