The United States said Thursday that leftist activists defiantly occupying the Venezuelan embassy in Washington should leave and make way for representatives of U.S.-recognized leader Juan Guaido.
Elliott Abrams, the envoy heading the U.S. push to topple President Nicolas Maduro, called the sit-in “a violation of the law” and said that Guaido’s ambassador in Washington would discuss with security officials how to remove them.
“This is sovereign Venezuelan territory. They have to leave,” Abrams told reporters, without setting a timeline.
“It is really striking to find anybody in the U.S. defending the Maduro regime. It is shameful to see them,” he said.
‘Hands Off Venezuela’
Activists have been sleeping at the four-floor embassy in the tony Georgetown neighborhood for two weeks, putting up signs that include one saying “Hands off Venezuela.”
The United States and about 50 other countries say that Guaido, a 35-year-old engineer and opposition leader, is the rightful interim president after Maduro’s disputed re-election.
At Venezuela embassy tonight we say no to guaido!!! pic.twitter.com/bvscZKlmBR
— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) April 24, 2019
Maduro, a leftist firebrand, has presided over a crumbling economy in which inflation is projected to soar a mind-boggling 10 million percent this year, with millions of Venezuelans having left the country in the face of a shortage of basic goods.
Maduro and his supporters blame the country’s economic woes largely on heavy U.S. sanctions, which they say are “crippling” and “suffocating” the country and fueling a humanitarian crisis.
Resisting a ‘Coup”
Leftist activists accuse President Donald Trump‘s administration of mounting a coup against Maduro and have voiced alarm at the U.S. leader’s hints that he is open to using force.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza warned the United States against forcibly evicting the activists, suggesting unspecified retaliation would be necessary.
“How crazy they would be to enter illegally,” he said at the United Nations. “If they did, we would have to think of how to reciprocate.”
The final Maduro envoys at the embassy left after the Organization of American States voted on April 10 to accept Guaido’s envoy as Venezuela’s representative to the Washington-based body.
Medea Benjamin, a veteran activist with the peace group Code Pink, said that Guaido’s representative should not be welcome.
“This is something unprecedented,” she said.
“I don’t think that has ever happened in the history of our country, where ordinary citizens have said ‘We will not let an unelected, illegitimate group of people come in and take over an embassy from a government that was elected, that is in power and is recognized by the U.N.,” she said.
More on the Subject
Eva Golinger is an American attorney and journalist who was a legal advisor to former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. She’s also the author of the best-selling book, “Confidante of ‘Tyrants:’ The Story of the American Woman Trusted by the U.S.’s Biggest Enemies,” which documents her political work in Venezuela and her rise into the close circle of the country’s late president.
“I had breakfast with Hugo Chavez, lunch with Bashar al Assad, cocktails with Putin and dinner with Gaddafi. Fidel Castro sent me flowers, perfume and cigars. Ahmadinejad told me he loved me. Chavez proclaimed me his defender,” she writes.
Golinger sat down with The Globe Post to discuss the unraveling political crisis in Venezuela and the Trump administration’s efforts to overthrow the government of Nicolas Maduro.