WASHINGTON—Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó on Wednesday scored a long-sought meeting with President Donald Trump, a high point on an international tour aimed at bolstering support for Guaidós U.S.-backed campaign to oust long-time ruler Nicolás Maduro.
But Guaido left the White House without the one thing coveted by every leader who visits: an Oval Office photo opportunity with the American president.
Soldiers lined the White House driveway as Guaidó arrived for the afternoon meeting. Trump stepped onto a red carpet and into a damp chill to welcome Guaidó and escort him to the Oval Office for a private meeting after a stroll along the colonnade. Guaidó sported a red tie, just like Trump.
A day earlier, Guaidó was a guest at Trumps State of the Union address. Lawmakers applauded as Trump introduced Guaidó as Venezuelas “true and legitimate” leader and called Maduro a “tyrant.”
The White House said Guaidos visit was an “opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to the people of Venezuela.” The leaders were to discuss how the United States can work with Guaidó to “expedite a democratic transition in Venezuela that will end the ongoing crisis.”
Vice President Mike Pence and Guaido met at the Capitol before Pence left on a trip to Pennsylvania. Also attending were Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, both Florida Republicans.
The United States and nearly 60 other governments say Maduros 2018 election was illegitimate and that Guaidó, as leader of the countrys National Assembly, should be named interim president under Venezuelas constitution. These countries blame Maduros socialist policies for a political and economic crisis threatening regional stability.
Maduro, however, remains in control, having faced down a failed military uprising, a brief renewal of mass anti-government protests, and sanctions and other U.S.-backed efforts to force him to leave office.
Guaidó slipped out of Venezuela at a time when he had few options left and was struggling to draw significant numbers of people into the street to protest against Maduro.
Guaidós momentum saw an upturn in early January, when he was seen attempting to jump a fence after being blocked by armed riot police from entering the National Assembly legislative building in widely published images.
“Mr. President, please take this message back to your homeland,” Trump told Guaidó during Tuesdays speech. “All Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom.”
The White House said the United States will continue to work with countries in the region to “confront the illegitimate dictatorship in Venezuela” and ensure a “democratic and prosperous” future for its people.
Trumps national security adviser, Robert OBrien, called on Russia, China and Cuba to end their support for Maduro. OBrien said Maduro lacks his peoples support and is “exercising tyranny” over them.
“We call on the Chinese, the Russians and the Cubans to knock it off and to get out of Venezuela and let the Venezuelans control their own destiny,” OBrien said Wednesday to a group of ambassadors to the United States.
Venezuela has been a priority in Latin America for the Trump administration, which a year ago was the first among a coalition of governments to recognize Guaidó as president.