“Juan Guaido is not at the French residence in Caracas. We have repeatedly confirmed this to the Venezuelan authorities,” French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Agnes von der Muhll said.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza earlier claimed that Guaido, who was named ‘interim president’ by the opposition-controlled parliament last year, has been hiding inside the French Embassy, and demanded that Paris hand him over.
Last year, pro-government lawmakers stripped Guaido of legal immunity. He is being investigated for attempting to usurp power in the country. Guaido has denied seeking refuge in the French Embassy.
The opposition has been staging protest rallies in Venezuela, with Guaido calling on the military and police to join him. However, most of the army and law enforcement personnel remain loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, and there have been pro-government rallies as well.
“Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has taken refuge at the French Embassy in the country’s capital”, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said. Guaido previously sought to shoot down the rumors, insisting he is “with the people.”
“We cannot enter the premises of any country’s embassy whatsoever, in this case Spain or France,” Arreaza said on Thursday, referring to both Guaido and fellow opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who fled to a Spanish diplomatic compound soon after a failed attempt to spark an insurrection in April 2019. Arreaza said this means that any arrest of the two men “is not possible.”
We hope that these governments rectify… and hand over the fugitives from justice to Venezuela. It is a shame for the diplomacy of Spain, it is a shame for the diplomacy of France, that will take its toll very, very soon.
Earlier this week, Maduro hinted that a “fugitive from justice” was “hidden in an embassy” in a thinly-veiled reference to Guaido, though he did not say his name or specify a particular country’s embassy. Guaido appeared to dismiss the allegation, tweeting that “they lie to you,” while claiming to be “wherever, with the people.”
Earlier on Thursday, Guaido appeared in an image shared on social media by the opposition-controlled ‘National Assembly’, a parallel body convened by Guaido in January after he lost his seat as the chair of the legislature. The image shows a Venezuelan coat of arms hanging on the wall, though the US-backed opposition figurehead’s location, as well as the date the photo was taken, are unclear.
Declaring himself ‘interim president’ of Venezuela in 2019 with immediate US backing, Guaido has long sought to oust Maduro from power, appearing alongside Lopez last year as the two tried to inspire mass defections from the military and security forces. The attempted uprising fizzled within days, however, with troops largely remaining loyal to Maduro’s socialist government.
Another apparent coup attempt in March saw 60 Venezuelan defectors, along with two American mercenaries, storm the country’s coast, but they were quickly stopped, with a number of the defectors killed and over a dozen arrests, the Americans among them. Though Guaido has denied any connection to the plot, documents have since leaked from other opposition members naming him as the mission’s “commander in chief.”