Who is the president of Venezuela?
President Nicolas Maduro, who was re-elected in May 2018, is serving as the president. More than 300 election observers for the 2018 election agreed the election met international standards of democracy and Maduro was legitimately elected. See the Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective.
One hundred and fifty governments around the world recognize Nicolas Maduro as the president of Venezuela. Vice President Delcy Rodriguez spoke at the United Nations General Assembly session in September 2019 as the legitimate representative of Venezuela.
As the US has continued the coup even after repeated failures and continues to escalate the economic war as well as threats of terrorist attacks and military action, governments are speaking out against US interventions. The Non-Aligned Movement, a network of 120 countries representing 55 percent of the world’s population, issued the Caracas Declaration during their July 20-21, 2019 meeting opposing US actions against Venezuela and support for the sovereignty of Venezuela.
Who is Juan Guaido?
The US-supported, self-appointed “interim president,” Juan Guaido, is the current head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, which is in contempt of the Venezuelan Supreme Court for refusing to hold new elections for four members charged with election fraud. Juan Guaido announced himself as President of Venezuela on January 22, 2019 and was immediately recognized by the United States and some of its allies. He has little support within Venezuela. Guaido has violated Venezuelan laws in multiple ways. He is currently under investigation by the Venezuelan government. See “The Making of Juan Guaido” by Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal.
How did the Embassy Protection Collective form?
In March 2019, the US government gave control of a Venezuelan diplomatic property in New York City and military attaché buildings in Washington, DC to leaders of the failed coup attempt in Venezuela. On April 9 2019, the Organization of American States (OAS), which is heavily influenced by the US, changed its rules to recognize the US puppet, Juan Guaido, as the “president of Venezuela.” The next day, Embassy Protection Collective members went to the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC to prevent it from being illegally turned over to the coup people. Founding organizations are ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK and Popular Resistance.
The Embassy Protection Collective was in the embassy with the permission of the elected government of Venezuela, which is recognized under Venezuelan law and by the United Nations. See the Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective.
What did the Embassy Protection Collective members do?
For the first few weeks, the Embassy Protection held nightly educational and cultural events in the Embassy with the permission of the embassy staff. Topics included AFRICOM, Iran, Honduras, Julian Assange, a look at regime change from inside the CIA by John Kiriakou. There were musical performances and comedy by Lee Camp. There were two national webinars. Rallies were held in front of the embassy to raise awareness of the situation and signs and banners were placed on the embassy with permission of the staff.
At its height, there were 70 or more people sleeping in the embassy who were part of the Embassy Protection Collective and hundreds of Collective members who were on the outside who rallied and provided support for the protectors inside the embassy. Embassy Protectors cleaned and maintained the embassy and worked from inside the embassy. At night, they slept on couches or the floor.
What is “The Siege”?
On April 30, Juan Guaido attempted a coup again. It quickly failed, but on that day, a large group of coup supporters started arriving at the embassy in Washington, DC. Embassy Protectors prevented the coup supporters from entering the embassy, for nearly 24 hours. The protectors were subjected to harassment, threats, loud noises and physical assaults before they retreated into the embassy on May 1.
The pro-coup mob, working with US law enforcement, surrounded the building 24/7 with tents and security patrols. They continued to harass, threaten and assault Embassy Protectors. Those who were assaulted by the mob were arrested even though they were the victims of assault while the pro-coup mob was free to do what they wanted, including using prolonged loud noises, shining strobe lights at the windows, breaking windows and doors and pasting posters on the brick. Several times, coup supporters broke into the embassy.
Coup supporters prevented Embassy Protectors from entering the building. They and the law enforcement prevented food and supplies from being delivered to the embassy. On May 8, the electricity was shut off and a few days later, the water stopped.
Embassy Protectors on the inside rationed the food to make it last longer. Embassy Protectors on the outside worked to get supplies in, often being attacked, injured and arrested for doing so. The protectors inside decided that a smaller number of people would stay to protect the embassy in order to make supplies last longer. In the end, there were four Embassy Protectors inside who were arrested on May 16.
Were Venezuelan Embassies in other countries targeted?
On April 30, the day that the siege at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC began, the same tactic of trying to take over Venezuelan embassies occurred at embassies in Argentina and Chile. These were not the first attacks on Venezuelan embassies by coup supporters. In 2017 the Venezuelan embassy in Spain was attacked. In January 2019 the embassy in Peru and in February 2019 the embassies in Costa Rico and Ecuador were attacked. A cyber-attack on the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry in February 2019 disabled at least 10 Venezuelan embassies. These attacks used many of the same tactics used against the Embassy Protection Collective: pro-coup mobs, blocking food, and cutting off electricity and water. The documentary, Venezuela: Diplomacy Under Siege, shows the attacks by coup plotters on Venezuelan embassies and how this has been a strategy used in US coup attempts around the world. They show these attacks as well as scenes from the embassy in Washington, DC.
What is the Vienna Convention?
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 is an international treaty that defines a framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries. The United States, as the host country for the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC, is required under the Vienna Convention to protect the embassy even when diplomatic relations break down or countries are at war. The embassy is inviolate, i.e. the US government cannot enter the embassy without the permission of the Venezuelan government. See the Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective.
The Embassy Protection Collective was in the embassy with the permission of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry and government. Protectors consistently told the US State Department, Secret Service and other representatives of the US government that they were in the embassy legally and anyone entering the embassy without permission of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry would be a violation of international law. See Arresting Members of the Embassy Protection Collective Would be Unlawful.
What was the goal of the Embassy Protection Collective?
The Collective was serving as “interim protectors” of the embassy and stated they would leave voluntarily when a Mutual Protecting Power Agreement was reached between the US and Venezuela where Switzerland would protect the US embassy in Caracas and Turkey would protect the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. Protecting Power Agreements have been used in international law for hundreds of years and have been incorporated into the Vienna Convention. There are currently 28 Protecting Power Agreements recognized under international law of which five are for diplomatic properties of the United States (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and the Central African Republic).
Did the US government violate the Vienna Convention?
Yes, on May 16, 2019, the US government invaded the embassy with more than 100 police, many wearing military gear and carrying military weapons. They entered the embassy using a battering ram, even though they could have cut zip ties that were holding the front door shut. The Embassy Protectors had notified the police they would not resist arrest or barricade themselves in the embassy.
What charges and punishment are the Embassy Protectors facing?
The four who were arrested are facing charges in the federal district court in Washington, DC of “interfering with protective functions.” This statute has been rarely used and has never been used before regarding the protection of a building. It has been used for the protection of people, not property.
The four who were arrested are each facing up to one year in jail and up to a $100,000 fine. The government is also threatening to charge them for the cost of police time and damage to the embassy. The Embassy Protectors maintain they did not damage the building.
The four who were arrested each have individual counsel who are working as a Joint Defense Committee. They have pled not guilty and will not accept a plea bargain that requires admitting guilt for their work as interim embassy protectors.
The date of the trial has not been set. The best guess is in the spring of 2020 at the earliest.