Defiant Juan Guaidó fears for family’s safety, denounces persecution in Venezuela, Colombia

Venezuelan opposition leader plans to travel to Washington next to meet with U.S. lawmakers

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – While in Miami-Dade County’s city of Coral Gables, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó said the regime of Nicolas Maduro uses torture, murder, exile, threats, and division to weaken the opposition — just as the dictators in Nicaragua and Cuba do.

The 39-year-old father said this is why he is worried about the safety of his wife, Fabiana Rosales, 30, their two daughters, Miranda and Mérida, and other members of his family and political supporters who remain vulnerable to retaliation.

“I don’t want five-year-old and one-year-old girls to be held hostage by a dictatorship,” Guaidó said in Spanish during a news conference on Thursday, also adding that he was forced into a “risky” act of defiance amid an “imminent” threat against him.

Guaidó, the former president of Venezuela’s National Assembly from 2019 to 2021, said that after more than four years of Maduro’s persecution, he decided to travel out of Caracas, through Venezuela and Colombia, and later to the United States.

“Hope... is latent in Venezuela today; unfortunately they try to silence it,” Guaidó said. “That’s why they tried to kidnap me ... and they had plans, and we found out about them ... That’s why we avoided handing over a hostage to the dictatorship.”

Juan Guaidó gestures, next to his wife Fabiana Rosales, as they arrive to a rally on Feb. 2, 2019, in Caracas, Venezuela. (Photo by Marco Bello/Getty Images)

Guaidó said his sudden departure from Caracas to the Colombian-Venezuelan border brought back memories of the pain he felt when he left his native coastal city of La Guaira after torrential rains caused destructive and deadly flash floods in 1999.

“It was a moment of great difficulty.”

This time, Guaidó said, he crossed the border with an expired passport, because Venezuelan authorities have refused to renew it after issuing a travel ban — all as part of Maduro’s ongoing effort to isolate him and hurt the opposition.

“I walked across a bridge,” Guaidó said, adding that he couldn’t release the details of his journey. “I must protect those who took me. Can you imagine that today I say who took me to the border or in what car? He goes to jail tomorrow, tortured.”

Colombia's left-wing President Gustavo Petro, left, meets with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Feb. 16, 2023. (Juan Cano/Colombian government via AP)

While on friendly terms with Maduro, left-wing Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s administration didn’t welcome Guaidó, who some world leaders — including Petro’s right-wing predecessor, Ivan Duque —considered to be Venezuela’s de facto leader since 2019.

“I was persecuted in two countries,” Guaidó said about Venezuela and Colombia, while also accusing Colombia’s Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva of lying about his case.

Once in Colombia’s border city of Cúcuta, Guaidó said he purchased a flight ticket to Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, but he wasn’t allowed to board a commercial flight. After an official threatened him with deportation, he said he had to change his plan.

While he traveled from Cúcuta to Bogotá, where he eventually met with U.S. diplomats, he said he stumbled upon refugees who were forced to hike without nothing more than a backpack. The United Nations estimates Colombia is host to nearly two million Venezuelans.

FILE - Migrants, mostly Venezuelans, walk across the Darien Gap from Colombia into Panama hoping to reach the U.S. on Oct. 15, 2022.(AP Photo/Fernando Vergara, File) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Guaidó arrived at Miami International Airport on a commercial flight on Tuesday from El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá. He said he was able to hug his mother, Norka Márquez, who lives in exile, for the first time in three years on Wednesday.

Guaidó said that while in the U.S., he will not be seeking political asylum, as his goal continues to be to remain politically active. Instead, he said his agenda includes a trip to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, to meet with Democrats and Republicans.

“Let’s not allow Russia to continue to destabilize the American continent,” Guaidó said, also later adding that the brutal persecution of the opposition in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba is “backed by Moscow.”

Guaidó also said that with the support of seven Venezuelan political parties he wants to help unite the divided opposition and to seek international support and protection so that in the future, there can be “free and fair” and “competitive” primary elections to restore Democracy.

“It cannot be that impunity reigns in the region,” Guaidó said.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido holds his daughter Miranda Eugenia after a news conference on Sept. 16, 2022, in Caracas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

As a founding member of both the Youth for Social Democracy, an activist group that stood against the late Hugo Chavez’s media censorship, and the I Want Peace, a pacifist political organization, Guaidó helped Harvard-educated Leopoldo López to start Popular Will, a political party recognized in 2011.

López, one of Guaido’s mentors, fled Venezuela to Colombia on his way to Spain in 2020 after spending four years in a military prison, about a year and a half in house arrest, and another year and a half trapped under political asylum at the Spanish embassy in Caracas.

“We undoubtedly made mistakes,” Guaidó said about the opposition’s efforts amid popular marches in the streets before López went into exile.

Guaidó said Maduro is eager for the U.S. to lift sanctions. He also hopes that Maduro’s envoys will eventually decide to rejoin the negotiations that had been ongoing in Mexico City since 2021, but stopped in November after an impasse.

Meanwhile, Guaidó said the acts of intimidation continue. He told reporters about the case of Edmundo “Pipo” Rada, a politician with the Popular Will party, who vanished in 2019. He said the killers placed a wet towel on his face, so he could be identified after they burned his body — all to send a message.

“I think asking for protection for human rights is universally accepted,” Guaidó said. “I think that is very important ... I think that’s the objective and the mission.”


Watch the news conference on FacebookLive (Spanish)

About the Authors:

Cody Weddle joined Local 10 News as a full-time reporter in South Florida in August of 2022. Before that, Cody worked regularly with Local 10 since January of 2017 as a foreign correspondent in Venezuela and Colombia.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.