A massive image of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is projected onto the front of the country’s embassy in the tony Georgetown section of Washington. But it’s not a tribute; it’s a protest against diplomats loyal to the Juan Guaidó government.
“Hugo Chávez visits the Venezuelan embassy tonight,” Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, a human rights organization based in the United States, wrote on her Twitter account.
Members of Code Pink and Popular Resistance.org first projected the image Saturday night as part of their efforts to block diplomats appointed by interim Venezuelan president Juan Guaidó from taking possession of the embassy on Thursday.
“A group of U.S. citizens, angered by the U.S.-orchestrated attempt to topple the Venezuelan government, has established an Embassy Protection Collective (Collectives for Peace) to keep the embassy from falling into the hands of the unelected opposition,” Benjamin added.
The group warned that if Guaidó’s diplomats enter the embassy, they will be trespassing. They called on the police, Secret Service, Homeland Security and other agencies to block the opposition from entering.
The two groups also demanded that the Trump administration suspend sanctions imposed against four officials of the Nicolás Maduro regime because of corruption, human rights violations and drug trafficking. Maduro is governing Venezuela as president, though his election has been widely disputed by Guaidó and numerous foreign governments.
According to Benjamin’s tweet, embassy staffers have given their approval for the groups to watch over the diplomatic mission 24 hours a day, all week, while sleeping on armchairs and holding “educational events.” The groups also plan to paint a mural. The ambassador appointed by Guaidó, Carlos Vecchio, and Minister Counselor Gustavo Marcano could not be reached Sunday for comment on the situation.
The Collective is gathering Internet signatures for a declaration supporting the Maduro regime and arguing that the Vienna Convention must be the entity that determines which side should control the embassy.
“We have joined together as the Embassy Protection Collective to show solidarity with the people of Venezuela and their right to determine their elected government. We are staying in the Venezuelan embassy with the permission of the legitimate Venezuelan government under President Nicolás Maduro. We seek to provide a nonviolent barrier to the threatened opposition takeover of their embassy in Washington,” the declaration says.
The groups argue that the Trump administration is violating the Vienna Convention by allowing diplomats loyal to Guaidó to take “illegal” possession of the diplomatic missions in the United States, and facilitating the process.
They expressed fears of a “hostile takeover” of the embassy in Washington, saying that is what happened March 18 when the Venezuelan opposition took over the military attache’s office in the city “with the help of the DC police and the Secret Service.”
The opposition took over the Venezuelan consulate in New York the same day and has “publicly threatened to take over the embassy,” the groups said.
The declaration calls for Maduro, reelected in May 2018 in balloting dismissed as fraudulent by a large part of the international community, to remain in power.
Guaidó’s “self-appointment” as interim president violates the Venezuelan constitution, they added.
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