CARACAS (Reuters) - The leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaido, cancelled a rally scheduled to be held in the country’s fourth-largest city on Sunday and said the “dictatorship” had prevented him from entering.
Guaido has travelled outside the capital, Caracas, more and more in recent weeks to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to step down. In January, he invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.
While he has previously reported delays in arriving to cities in the country’s interior due to roadblocks by the armed forces and Maduro supporters, Sunday’s cancellation of the event in the western city of Barquisimeto was unprecedented.
Protests are planned for Wednesday, May 1, including what Guaido has said will be “the largest march in Venezuela’s history”, part of what he calls the “definitive phase” of his effort to take office in order to call fresh elections.
“Today we had a meeting planned, were going to embrace the streets of Lara that filled from end to end,” Guaido said in a voice recording sent by his press team, referring to Lara state, home to Barquisimeto. He said he would reschedule the event for next weekend, and called on supporters to rally on Wednesday.
“Today the dictatorship blocked the path, the dictatorship did not allow us to arrive in Barquisimeto, but it will not prevent us from seeing each other.”
Guaido did not provide further details on who blocked him or where the incident occurred. Venezuela’s information ministry, which handles media inquiries for the government, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Maduro calls Guaido a U.S-backed puppet who seeks to oust him in a coup. The government has arrested his top aide, stripped Guaido of his parliamentary immunity and opened multiple probes. It has also barred him from leaving the country, a ban Guaido openly violated earlier this year.
Last week, Guaido said his congressional ally - opposition lawmaker Gilber Caro - had been detained, and that 11 members of his team had been summoned to appear before the Sebin intelligence agency.
Reporting by Luc Cohen and Vivian Sequera; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall