The socialist regime of Nicolás Maduro confirmed the arrest of Juan José Márquez, President Juan Guaidó’s uncle, late Wednesday, accusing him of smuggling illicit items into Venezuela like C-4 explosives and a brochure on culture and religion in Israel.
Márquez was on a flight from Portugal to Venezuela’s Maiquetía airport on Tuesday alongside his nephew and walked out of the gate with the Guaidó team. The Maduro regime organized a violent mob to greet Guaidó upon his return that pelted Guaidó and his family with projectiles, pour liquids on the president, and beat journalists in broad daylight. In the ensuing melee, Guaidó later told the media, Márquez disappeared.
Guaidó has been interim president of Venezuela since January 2019, when Maduro’s term expired. Maduro claims legitimacy as head of state through a May 2018 presidential “election” in which he banned all non-Marxist candidates, used violence to force Venezuelans to vote for him, and still managed record low turnout. In the event of a “break in the democratic order,” the lawmakers of the National Assembly can constitutionally replace a would-be dictator with an interim president, which is the process that granted Guaidó the presidency.
Guaidó returned to Venezuela this week after a world tour that included stops in Washington and Miami. In the former, Guaidó attended President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address as an invited guest and received a standing ovation as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state.
On Tuesday evening, Guaidó denounced the illegitimate Maduro regime for disappearing his uncle.
“24 hours disappeared. I hold you responsible, usurper Nicolás Maduro, and each and every one of your henchmen in Maiquetía for whatever happens to Juan José Márquez,” Guaidó wrote on Twitter, “an honest and brave man who knows better than anyone the courage of this struggle and his only concern is worrying about his family.”
24 horas desaparecido. Te hago responsable, usurpador Nicolás Maduro, y a cada uno de tus esbirros en Maiquetía de lo que le pase a Juan José Márquez, un hombre honesto y valiente que conoce como nadie el valor de esta lucha y su único problema es preocuparse por su familia https://t.co/sLsLHf5TBb
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 12, 2020
The public has not had an opportunity to see Márquez or confirm his wellbeing at press time, but Diosdado Cabello – head of Maduro’s United Socialist Party (PSUV), U.S.-sanctioned drug lord, and variety TV show host – confirmed the arrest late Wednesday.
“They’re making a bunch of noise about that they arrested an uncle of Guaidó’s,” Cabello said on Wednesday’s broadcast of his television show, Con el mazo dando (“Hitting with the Mallet”). “Not arrested – forced disappearance! I have some news … this uncle … had very dangerous materials on the plane. He violated the norms of civil aviation.”
Among the allegedly illegal items Cabello accused Márquez of carrying were a bulletproof vest and a brochure detailing life and religion in Israel.
The Maduro regime has close ties to the Shia terrorist group Hezbollah and the virulently antisemitic Islamic regime of Iran. Maduro himself has repeatedly condemned Israel for alleged transgressions against Palestinians and attended the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in 2017, at the behest of Islamist Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Cabello also claimed that Márquez had smuggled in an English-language document containing an unspecified anti-Venezuelan plan and had the contact information of an American Secret Service agent on his mobile phone.
The socialist television personality and drug trafficker’s main accusation, however, was that Márquez was smuggling explosives into Venezuela from Portugal.
“He brought tactical flashlights that included inside of them, in their battery compartment, chemical substances of an explosive nature. Presumably, C-4 explosive material,” Cabello claimed. “This is not a lie. This gentleman was bringing that. What else what this man bringing? A manual from Israel where it specifies its culture and religious beliefs … perfume capsules that contained explosive materials, presumably C-4. So what do we do, that he is the uncle of [Guaidó] we have to release him? No.”
The evidence Cabello presented consisted entirely in printed out images of, among other things, what appeared to be an Israeli tourism brochure, a bulletproof vest, and a flashlight.
Cabello then announced that Maduro would seek to take legal action against TAP Air Portugal, the airline Márquez flew to Venezuela on.
“When you look at the passenger list, nowhere there did it say any Juan Geraldo Guaidó Márquez [sic],” Cabello shouted. “The Portuguese think that we are pendejos [roughly, ‘assholes’]. … They think we are third-worlders, they call us, and they are a kingdom. Remember the Portuguese kingdom? They still think that.”
Cabello also disparaged Guaidó’s legitimacy.
“Who the hell is that guy? A guy who goes around the world saying he is the president of Venezuela,” Cabello ranted. “Who elected him president of Venezuela?”
Márquez, the Spanish newspaper El País reported, is a pilot by trade and family say he has no criminal background.
“My husband is a family man, a worker with no police background, that is why I am sure that he will be freed,” his wife Romina Bottaro told reporters.
Guaidó has attempted to galvanize the international press against the violent assault his family and journalists faced upon returning home.
“We will see the dictatorship’s response, the brutal, savage aggression yesterday to journalists, to members of the press, to lawmakers – we saw how they blocked highways, the National Guard posted on the street to even block foot traffic,” he told reporters Wednesday. “None of that will ever stop us nor has it ever stopped us. We will also see the increase of diplomatic pressure, that pressure, too, against human rights violators and financial criminals on the part of Nicolás Maduro.”
Trump promised Guaidó support during his address to Congress this month.
“Here this evening is a man who carries with him the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of all Venezuelans. Joining us in the gallery is the true and legitimate President of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó,” Trump said as Congress offered Guaidó a standing ovation. “Mr. President, please take this message back to your homeland: All Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom! Socialism destroys nations. But always remember, freedom unifies the soul.”