At around 9 in the morning on Thursday May 16, police illegally broke into the Venezuelan embassy in Washington DC and arrested the 4 members of the Embassy Protection Collective. These activists have been safeguarding the embassy for the last 37 days while a permanent protectorate for the embassy is established.
The arrest of the activists has been denounced by social movements and organizations across the globe as well as members of the Venezuelan government.
Their arrest comes three days after police from the District of Columbia and agents of the US Secret Service forcibly entered the premises, breaking the chains locking the doors. They then issued the activists inside the embassy an eviction notice.
The members of the Embassy Protection Collective were living and protecting the embassy with authorization from the government of Venezuela since the country’s diplomatic mission to the United States was forced to leave in April. In January, the US government recognized Juan Guaidó as the “legitimate president” of Venezuela and have since recognized his ‘chargé d’affaires’ in the US, Carlos Vecchio, who wants to take over the embassy installation. A US State Department official earlier said Vecchio had sought their intervention in the matter.
Throughout the weeks they were at the embassy, the activists faced immense harassment and violence from right-wing supporters of Guaidó. These opposition supporters also blocked the entry of food and medicine to the activists inside the embassy. Activists who tried to deliver food to their comrades inside the embassy were arrested by the police.
Condemning the arrest of the activists on Thursday, Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted: “Today our diplomatic property in Washington was taken and invaded by a police operation without precedents. They disrespected their obligations of the Vienna Convention and violated the human rights of the activists that have protected our embassy with our authorization.”
“The moral of the 4 activists is more powerful than the repressive force of the dozens of armed police that were deployed. The Government of Venezuela will evaluate the response in the framework of International Law, within the recognized principle of reciprocity,” he added.
Vice-Minister for North America Carlos Ron wrote “We denounce the arrest of the #EmbassyProtectionCollective members who were staying in the Embassy with our permission. We do not authorize any of the coup representatives to enter the Embassy.”
The activists have vowed that the struggle is not over. Demands have been raised for ‘Protecting Power Agreements’ so that the DC embassy and the US embassy in Caracas are protected by a third country. Mobilizations will also be held this weekend to denounce the eviction and arrests.