Activists arrested in Venezuelan embassy in Washington after a monthlong occupation

Activists arrested in Venezuelan embassy in Washington after a monthlong occupation

May 16, 2019

WASHINGTON — Tensions have been mounting at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., where liberal activists from the group CODEPINK have occupied the building for the past month. On Thursday morning, things finally came to a head when law enforcement personnel entered the embassy to arrest and remove the activists. 

In a press release, CODEPINK said that their activists were charged with “interference with certain protective functions.” The Department of Justice could not confirm these charges. 

Activists have been occupying the embassy since April 10, but only four activists remained in the embassy after a Monday notice from American officials to leave the premises.

The four-story building has been vacant since the beginning of this year, when President Donald Trump recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela, instead of the current Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

Embassy occupation: Liberal activists occupy Venezuelan embassy in Washington to oppose Trump policy

American withdrawal: US announces withdrawal of last of its embassy personnel from Venezuela

According to a State Department spokesperson, the Guaido government asked the U.S. to remove the protestors from the embassy, so American law enforcement personnel cleared the embassy.

Federal agents walk out of the Venezuelan Embassy after arresting pro Nicolas Maduro supporters during a eviction from the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, Thursday, May 16, 2019. . (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) (Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP)

In a statement, CODEPINK denounced the arrests and slammed the Guaido government.

“This struggle is far from over. We will continue to fight to stop this embassy from being handed over by the Guaidó supporters,” said CODEPINK Codirector Medea Benjamin.

The activists believe that giving the Guaido government control over the embassy could endanger the American Embassy in Venezuela, and had refused to leave until a diplomatic solution could be worked out between the Trump administration and the Maduro government. The State Department withdrew all of its remaining personnel from Venezuela in March. 

Supporters of Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido react after pro-Nicolas Maduro protesters were removed from inside Venezuela Embassy by US federal authorities in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, USA, 16 May 2019. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER ORG (Photo: ERIK S. LESSER, EPA-EFE)

Carlos Vecchio, the Guaido government’s ambassador to the United States, was thankful for the removal of the protestors. 

“Thanks to the government of the U.S., the State Department and law enforcement agencies for their support to enforce the laws and international treaties,” he wrote in a statement “The usurpation stopped. We keep advancing.”  

The Trump administration does not consider the Maduro government to be legitimate, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has highlighted alleged rights abuses and economic mismanagement under Maduro.

On April 30, Guaido led an effort to oust Maduro, but the uprising failed after the country’s military sided with Maduro instead of the opposition.

At the time, Pompeo told Fox Business that “military action is possible” by the U.S. government to assist Maduro. Reuters reported yesterday evening that representatives of the Maduro and Guaido governments are currently meeting in Norway to discuss a negotiated solution to the crisis.

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