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Venezuela suspends Portuguese airline after Guaido's flight home

Opposition leader Juan Guaido is escorted after he was drenched by supporters of President Nicolas Maduro, as arrives at Simon Bolivar International Airport in La Guaira, Venezuela, on Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan authorities suspended a Portuguese airline on Monday days after it carried opposition leader Juan Guaido and his uncle home from an international tour aimed at ousting President Nicolas Maduro.

    Guaido's flight to Caracas on TAP Air Portugal ended his three-week tour through Europe and into the Trump White House. Venezuelan authorities arrested Guaido's uncle upon landing, accusing him of trying to bring a small amount of explosives into the nation.

    Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said the carrier's flights into and out of the country had been suspended for 90 days, hours of the transportation minister said they had opened an investigation into "serious violation" of local regulations.

    Guaido, 36, rose to prominence a year ago, claiming presidential powers and vowing to end Maduro's rule amid a historic economic crisis. Guaido says Maduro's government has targeted his uncle, Juan Jose Marquez, as a means to attack him.

    Venezuela also issued a letter of protest to the French government on Monday, saying its ambassador in Caracas, Romain Nadal, interfered in the nation's internal affairs when he went to greet Guaido upon his arrival at the airport.

    France and the European Union recognize Guaido as Venezuela's interim president until fresh elections can be held.

    A small delegation of foreign diplomats went to greet Guaido, who violated a travel ban by Maduro's government, risking the possibility of arrest upon his return.

    Venezuelan authorities said in their letter that the French ambassador employed a "provocative strategy" by going to greet Guaido, abusing his "privileges" and "violated international conventions and customs."

    Guaido visited the French President Emmanuel Macron on his trip, which also included a White House meeting with President Donald Trump.

    Backers of Guaido consider Maduro's 2018 election fraudulent because the most popular opposition leaders were banned.

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