Opposition leader Juan Guaido returned to Venezuela on Monday after a 10-day absence, injecting fresh energy into the US-backed campaign to push out authoritarian President Nicolas Maduro. Guaido arrived shortly after noon to wild cheers from supporters gathered at Caracas’ Maiquetia Simon Bolivar International Airport. “Guaido! Guaido” they screamed. “Yes we can!” “We are here, Venezuela,” a beaming Guaido declared, as he was encircled by television cameras. “We are strong. We are moving forward!” Guaido supporters in Venezuela and abroad had feared he might be arrested on arrival. The opposition leader, who has been recognised as interim president by the United States and more than 50 other countries, had defied a court order when he crossed the border on February 22 to lead an effort to bring truckloads of humanitarian aid into the country. He has since been travelling to meet with Latin American leaders. Venezuelan President Maduro’s ‘days in power are about to end’ Senior diplomats from the United States, Europe and Latin America had gathered at the airport Monday to ensure Guaido was not harmed. Officials including Britain’s foreign minister, Jeremy Hunt, and John Bolton, the US national security adviser, had warned that Maduro would face severe consequences if he detained Guaido. “Any threats or acts against his safe return will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community,” Bolton tweeted Sunday night. Maduro had said that Guaido will “face justice” if he returns, and security was heavier than usual at the airport. But the opposition leader cleared immigration with no problem. Until almost the last minute, Venezuelans had been unsure of when and where he would arrive. Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido calls for mass protests Monday Guaido had called for massive anti-government demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday. Thousands of his supporters jammed a southern Caracas plaza and surrounding streets on Monday. As they heard he had arrived in Venezuela, they began cheering. “We want to tell the government that we are here with Guaido, and that we are not afraid,” said Yesenia Carrillo, 39, a housewife, in an interview. “The situation is unbearable,” said Gloria Lara, 60, a middle-school teacher, referring to the disintegrating economy. “Guaido arrived as a messiah, like a saviour.” She noted the government had arrested other opposition leaders in past years, or forced them into exile, and said she hoped he would not be detained. Russia vows more support for ‘friend’ Maduro, including aid Since Guaido declared himself interim president in late January, he has become the biggest threat to Maduro since the former union leader succeeded Hugo Chavez in 2013 as head of a radical leftist government. Tens of thousands of people have responded to Guaidó’s calls for anti-government demonstrations in recent weeks. But the opposition movement appeared to stall after the opposition failed in its effort to defy the armed forces and send convoys of international humanitarian assistance across the border into the country on February 23. Opposition leaders had portrayed that action as a possible turning point in the crisis. The security forces largely stayed loyal to Maduro, though, and dispersed protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, leaving truckloads of aid stranded outside a country in desperate economic straits. Guaido remained abroad for 10 days, visiting capitals throughout Latin America as he prepared his return. Maduro has not commented publicly on Guaido’s plan to return but has accused the opposition leader of being part of a US plot to overthrow his government. On Monday, Maduro tweeted that Venezuelans should enjoy the Carnival holidays this week. Venezuela crisis: China, Russia team up at UN to veto US call for elections Maduro has grown increasingly unpopular as Venezuela’s oil-based economy has collapsed, a result of government mismanagement and lower petroleum prices in recent years. The International Monetary Fund has warned that inflation could reach 10 million per cent this year. Food and medicine have become scarce.