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Guatemala president-elect says he was denied entry to Venezuela

CARACAS (Reuters) – Guatemala’s president-elect said he was denied entry to Venezuela on Saturday, where he was scheduled to meet with opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Alejandro Giammattei, a conservative who won the Central American country’s presidency in August, landed at Simon Bolivar international airport near the capital Caracas, but “regime officials are impeding his entry,” Guaido’s office said.

Guaido, who leads Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, was recognized as the country’s rightful leader by dozens of other nations in January after invoking the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing President Nicolas Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

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“This is a message for president Guaido: we are with you. Even though they have not let us enter, we will make our voice heard today across the whole continent,” Giammattei said in a video filmed on an airplane and posted by Guaido on Twitter.

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Giammattei later tweeted that he had landed in Panama without incident.

Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Maduro, a socialist, calls Guaido a U.S.-backed puppet seeking to oust him in a coup.

Maduro has overseen an economic collapse in the once-prosperous OPEC nation, and is accused of corruption and human rights violations.

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In a tweet before Giammattei was denied entry, Guaido’s office called their planned meeting “historic and without precedent.”

(Reporting by Luc Cohen and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas; Additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City; Editing by Clelia Oziel and Daniel Wallis)

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