Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido says Maduro government detaining his uncle

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CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said that President Nicolas Maduro had been “cowardly” by detaining his uncle after the pair arrived at the main airport in Caracas on Tuesday.

Venezuelan National Assembly President and opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognised as the country’s rightful interim ruler, arrives for a session of Venezuela’s National Assembly at a square in Caracas, Venezuela February 12, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

Juan Jose Marquez, who was with Guaido on his return to Venezuela after a three-week international tour, passed “migration normally, and as he was about to leave … he was held for an alleged Seniat review,” Guaido’s press team wrote on Twitter. Seniat is Venezuela’s national tax agency.

At the airport, Guaido was met by supporters as well as pro-government agitators who pushed and shouted insults at him and attacked journalists, photographers and opposition lawmakers, according to Reuters witnesses. [nL1N2AB18K]

“It retains a member of my family … the cowardly dictatorship,” Guaido told reporters on Wednesday before a session of the opposition dominated National Assembly.

As Maduro “is a coward … who does not show his face, who does not dare to step in a public square without security … he mounts an attack against my family,” Guaido added.

Marquez’s wife Romina Botaro said her husband was an airplane pilot who had nothing to do with politics.

“Like any protective uncle, he wanted to accompany his nephew’s return to the country,” Botaro said.

Marquez’s whereabouts remain unknown, but opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano wrote on Twitter that he was being “transferred to court.” Guaido’s press team said on Twitter that Marquez now had private legal representation, but that the government was trying to assign him public defenders.

The Ministry of Communication did not respond to a request for comment.

Guaido, who is recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela’s legitimate president, hopes to revive the inertia of 2019 when he led a groundswell of protests against Maduro.

Venezuela’s economic collapse under Maduro has prompted nearly 5 million people to emigrate, creating a migration crisis in nearby Latin American nations.

Maduro calls Guaido a U.S-backed puppet who seeks to oust him in a coup.

Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Brian Ellsworth; Writing by Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Richard Chang and Grant McCool

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