After Juan Guaido’s opposition party was locked out of the National Assembly building this month, forcing them to meet inside of a theater, tensions continued to rise in Venezuela. Armed groups of civilian militia members known as “colectivos” (essentially a brute squad) have been harassing their members in the streets along with Maduro’s National Guard.

In an effort to rally support for his interim presidency, Guaido headed out of the country to meet with other foreign leaders this week. But no sooner had he left than Maduro’s forces showed up at his legislative offices and raided the place, hauling away plenty of “evidence.” This is probably the boldest and most brazen move that Maduro has made against the man who seeks to replace him to date. (Associated Press)

Intelligence police raided the office of Juan Guaidó on Tuesday, while the U.S.-backed opposition leader was traveling in Europe seeking to bolster support for his campaign to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Masked officers from feared SEBIN intelligence police unit blocked the building’s entrances and lined the street with their vehicles, barring entry by lawmakers aligned with Guaidó.

Legislator Manuela Bolívar confirmed the raid on his office, saying she was allowed to go to the door of the third-floor space, where officers were still inside working inside.

Lawmakers called it an illegal search.

We also learned this week that Ismael León, a deputy in the National Assembly, has apparently “disappeared.” Neither his fellow legislators nor his family have any idea where he is, but it’s a safe bet that he’s currently tucked away in one of Maduro’s prison cells for “questioning.”

Guaido’s trip abroad was either a bold or foolish decision, though we won’t know which until he returns. Maduro has had a travel ban in place for all of the opposition party members for more than a year now. Guaido has just violated that order, offering Maduro an excuse to have him arrested. For most of 2019, the dictator appeared fearful of going after Guaido directly, probably worrying about the international response from the more than 60 nations that have backed Guaido’s claim to the interim presidency.

But now, the stalemate has dragged on for a long time with no direct intervention from the United States or our allies taking place. With the support of Russia and China, Maduro seems to be growing bolder and more confident that he’s successfully staved off the challenge from Guaido. And if he doesn’t fear any repercussions from abroad, at this point, he may just go ahead and order Guaido’s arrest as soon as he returns.

If that happens, the attempt to restore a legitimate government to Venezuela will likely be over. The Socialist Party in the National Assembly has already “elected” a new leader to replace Guaido while the opposition party has been locked out. That new leader is firmly in Maduro’s pocket, having no interest in declaring his presidency illegitimate. And if that vote can’t be negated, Guaido’s only constitutional claim to the interim presidency evaporates. At that point, his fate will very likely be sealed and he will join many of Maduro’s other critics in prison.

I sincerely wish I had some good news or an optimistic take on this to close with, but I don’t. These are dark days for Venezuela’s people and there doesn’t seem to be any light coming from over the horizon.