Activists defending the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. are ready for a long battle, laying the groundwork for legal challenges as the Trump administration’s Elliot Abrams issues warnings against them
GREG WILPERT: Hi. I’m Greg Wilpert from The Real News Network, standing here in front of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., where dozens of people have gathered to protest against the possible takeover of the Venezuelan Embassy by the parallel opposition leader, or parallel president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido.
That is, it is suspected that his ambassador, or official representative, together with the D.C. police and the Secret Service, might take over this building today, which is currently being occupied by dozens of activists who are trying to protect it in the name of the Venezuelan government since all of the diplomats, the official diplomats of the Venezuelan government, have left the embassy, and are no longer here. And this is also partly as a result of the OAS having voted last week to allow the Guaido representative to be seated at the OAS. And so now officially there’s only a opposition representative of the Venezuelan government at the OAS. And since they share the building, they might use that as an excuse to take over the embassy today.
However, it’s not clear whether this will actually happen today. It could be that the standoff will last a while longer since there’s no official announcement as to when this might happen. But any moment they could be risking arrest for defending this embassy.
Medea Benjamin, founder of the group Code Pink, explained the purpose of the defense of the Venezuelan embassy by activists.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: So we’re here inside the Venezuelan embassy. As you can see, we have lots of people. There were dozens of people that were sleeping here last night. We’ve been here now for two weeks, but this is what we’re considering the showdown, because yesterday was the last day that the remaining Venezuelan diplomats were in this building. And so we think that that is the “green light” for Guaido’s people to come in and try to take over this embassy.
People will definitely get arrested if the police come in. There are many people who are committed. In fact, they’re filling out forms right now for their emergency contacts. They’re putting their bodies on the line. And we feel there are a few times in our lives where we get to actually be witnesses and participants in history in the making, and the fight for this embassy is a symbolic one. But it’s even more than that, because if the Guaido people take this embassy, then the Venezuelan government, Maduro’s government, is going to say, well, I guess we’ve got to take the U.S. embassy. And the U.S. might consider that an act of war. So we are here to say, you know, slow down, stop this whole process.
GREG WILPERT: Another organizer of the action is Kevin Zeese of the group Popular Resistance, who talked about the legal ramifications and obstacles for the self-declared opposition president of Venezuela to take over the embassy.
KEVIN ZEESE: U.S. government under the Vienna Convention is required to protect embassies that are housed in their country. That’s required. Embassies are inviolate. They can’t be trespassed even by the United States, and the U.S. has threatened to do that. And so because the Trump administration is violating international law, we as civilians are doing the job they should be doing. We’re protecting the embassy. So we expect them to come, because the OAS diplomats left yesterday. And today is the first day without them. So we expect that.
I’ve been in contact with the State Department police intelligence services and they’ve said that we should be prepared that they would come and give a date or time for charges. We discussed charges like trespass, which makes no sense because we’re here with permission of the owner of the building, the Venezuelan government, so we can’t trespass when he says you can be there. Unlawful entry. Again, we’re here with the permission of the owner of the building, so we’re not entering unlawfully. There’s nothing we’re doing illegal. And so I don’t know what they’re going to charge us with, but if they think that through, because if we get to court, the issue of charges will be who actually is the owner of the building who actually can make that decision?
GREG WILPERT: Meanwhile, the protest outside and inside the embassy continues.
OLIVIA GOUMBURI: Well, today, you know, as an American citizen, I think it’s really important that I’m here to make sure that I’m speaking for the rest of my fellow folks living here in this country. We do not approve of what the U.S. government is doing right now towards Venezuela. We think the sanctions need to stop. We think trying to instill a puppet government that was never elected, a puppet ambassador that was never, you know, had any legitimacy is just plain wrong. And I really don’t think as an American that we need to be here supporting President Trump anointing a leader. We don’t stand for that and we shouldn’t let others do it.
GREG WILPERT: U.S. special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told AP today that protesters are at the embassy “clearly breaking the law.”
Greg Wilpert, reporting for The Real News Network from Washington, D.C.