Venezuela's Juan Guaidó Slips Into Colombia for Regional Conference

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia—The leader of Venezuela’s political opposition,

Juan Guaidó,

traveled secretly to Colombia where he will meet with officials from the U.S. and regional allies as he seeks to rally international support in his bid to oust authoritarian

Nicolás Maduro.

Mr. Guaidó’s trip to Colombia—one of nearly 60 nations that have recognized the opposition chief as Venezuela’s leader and deemed Mr. Maduro illegitimate because of alleged vote rigging—is his second in the past year in defiance of a travel ban that was imposed on him by the Venezuelan regime.

“We will generate the conditions that will drive us to freedom,” Mr. Guaidó said in a

Twitter

post.

Colombia President

Ivan Duque,

a Maduro foe, welcomed Mr. Guaidó in a separate tweet, adding that the two are scheduled to hold a private meeting at the presidential palace here later in the day. On Monday, Mr. Duque said, Mr. Guaidó will take part in a summit to discuss antiterrorism measures in the Western Hemisphere, where U.S. Secretary of State

Mike Pompeo

is among those slated to attend.

As tensions between the U.S. and Iran have flared in recent weeks, politicians in Venezuela’s opposition have refreshed longstanding claims that groups such as Hezbollah have used Venezuela’s economic chaos for illicit fundraising and money-laundering activities. Mr. Maduro says the allegations are part of a smear campaign to justify a coup.

Mr. Guaidó’s meeting with Mr. Pompeo comes as U.S. officials ponder their next steps after an intensifying sanctions campaign in recent years that has severely debilitated Mr. Maduro but has failed to push him out of office. In addition to sanctions on Venezuela’s lifeblood oil industry, Washington has financially blacklisted Mr. Maduro and more than 100 of members of his government.

But Mr. Maduro has clung to power thanks to continued support from allies like Russia, China and Cuba.

Mr. Guaidó, 36, leads Venezuela’s congress, a legislative body that has been stripped of all its powers but that the U.S. and its allies consider to be the last democratic institution left in a country slipping into autocratic rule. Earlier this month, Mr. Maduro’s loyalists in Venezuela said they had named their own leader to congress after having National Guard soldiers bar Mr. Guaidó from entering the building on the day he was expected to be re-elected by a majority anti-Maduro legislature.

The move was condemned by major Latin American powers, and the U.S. has said it continues to back Mr. Guaidó. Despite the foreign support, the young leader still faces pressure from within the fractious opposition coalition, where many have criticized him for failing to take more drastic measures to overthrow Mr. Maduro, including seeking foreign military aid. Polls show Mr. Guaidó’s approval rating has fallen by nearly 20 percentage points from its highs to about 40%.

“I assure you that the return to our country will be filled with good news,” Mr. Guaidó’s tweet  said. “Let’s go Venezuela!”

Write to Kejal Vyas at kejal.vyas@wsj.com

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