Trump Admin Breaks and Enters Venezuela’s Embassy, Arrests Activists

Trump Admin Breaks and Enters Venezuela’s Embassy, Arrests Activists... 20/05/2019 Military

Keywords:#ANSWER, #ANSWER_Coalition, #American, #Caracas, #Code_Pink, #Collective, #Georgetown, #Iran, #January, #Medea_Benjamin, #Miami, #Nations, #Nicolas_Maduro, #Pine, #President, #President_of_Venezuela, #State_Department, #Switzerland,, #Trump, #Turkey, #US, #US-based, #United_Nations, #United_States, #Venezuela, #Vienna, #Vienna_Convention, #Washington, #Washington_DC, #Yemen

After more than a month of living in the Venezuelan embassy, DC police and secret service broke open the doors to arrest for activists who had been staying in the embassy to protect it against an opposition take-over. The move sets a dangerous precedent, says Medea Benjamin
Story Transcript
NARRATOR: Around 9:15AM Thursday morning, Washington DC police and US Secret Service agents broke into Venezuela’s embassy in Washington and arrested four activists who had been living there, and are part of the Embassy Protection Collective.
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group Code Pink, which has been actively involved in the Embassy protection Collective, described the arrests as follows:
MEDEA BENJAMIN: At 9:30 this morning, the police arrived with many police vehicles, with sniffing bomb dogs, with all kinds of paraphernalia that made it look like a war zone, when it was only four peaceful activists inside there as part of the Embassy Protection Collective that has been living inside the embassy for five weeks now. They took them to the police station, where they have been charged preliminarily with interfering with certain functions of an embassy. We don’t know what the final charges will be until they get arraigned tomorrow.
NARRATOR: After the arrests, police officers could be seen clearing the banners that the Embassy Protection Collective had hung on the Embassy façade.
For the previous several weeks leading up to the arrests, protesters supporting the Embassy Protection Collective, including the groups Code Pink, Popular Resistance, and the ANSWER Coalition, held active protests outside the embassy in solidarity with those inside. At the same time, counterdemonstrators who support Guaidó were gathered outside, often assaulting, harassing, and taunting those defending the embassy. They also damaged the embassy’s exterior. Secret Service and DC police clearly took the side of the pro-Guaidó counterdemonstrators. They arrested embassy defenders on several occasions when they tried to deliver food and water to those inside the embassy. The DC power company, PEPCO, shut off electricity to the embassy a week earlier.
Ever since January 23, when Guaidó declared himself to be “interim” President of Venezuela, the Trump administration has claimed that Guaidó is Venezuela’s legitimate president and that his representatives would be considered the legitimate representatives for controlling Venezuela’s US-based assets. The first move in this direction took place last February, when the US government handed over control of the Venezuelan-owned, but US-based oil company Citgo to a Guaidó-appointed management team.
Immediately after the Trump administration recognized Guaidó as president, Venezuela’s actual president, Nicolas Maduro, announced that Venezuela would break diplomatic relations with the United States. Shortly thereafter the US announced that it chose Switzerland to represent US interests in Venezuela. And more recently, Venezuela said it wanted Turkey to represent Venezuelan interests in the US. However, despite extended negotiations, no final deal was reached before US authorities broke into the Venezuelan embassy.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: It is very unclear what the legal status of the embassy is. On the one hand, the U.S. government has obviously recognized Juan Guaidó, and recognized his representative Carlos Vecchio as ambassador, and Gustavo Tarre as the ambassador for the Organization of American States. But it is still not clear that they are going to turn over the embassy to them. There is still a chance that they might keep the embassy empty and continue with the negotiations with the Venezuelan government to try to find a peaceful solution. I am sure they’re being pressured tremendously by the supporters of Guaidó in the United States who have flown in from Miami and other places to be camped out outside this embassy for the past two weeks, and are demanding that the State Department turn it over to Guaidó. On the other hand, there are obviously people in the Trump administration who understand the dangerous precedent that this sets, and the liability it creates for US embassies not just in Caracas, but all over the world, because this is a direct provocation that would normally result in a reciprocal move on the part of the Maduro administration, which would be taking over the US embassy. The US could see that as an act of war, and use it as a justification a US military intervention.
NARRATOR: The day before DC police and Secret Service arrested the embassy protectors, Samuel Moncada, Venezuela’s Ambassador to the United Nations, held a press conference in which he presented the Venezuelan government’s view of the embassy standoff:
SAMUEL MONCADA: This type of situation should be resolved by appointing third states with protecting powers in order to maintain the integrity of the diplomatic headquarters. Article 45 of the Vienna Convention states, even in the case of severance of diplomatic relations, the receiving state shall be obliged to respect and protect the premises of the mission. This is only possible with respect for the principle of immunity; for otherwise, if a government uses its territory and protected agents to occupy and violate the diplomatic offices of other governments, the provisions of the convention would be shattered, and all diplomatic offices in the world would be in danger.
NARRATOR: In this context, Medea Benjamin outlined the Embassy Protection Collective’s plans for the immediate future:
MEDEA BENJAMIN: So this is a critical moment. It could go either way. That’s why we’re calling out all peace-loving forces in the United States to continue to go to the Venezuelan embassy, to continue to demand what is called a ‘protecting power agreement’ at that embassy. We will have rallies this weekend. We will have people coming every day during the weekday from 6:00-8:00PM. And we intend for this to be a rallying cry for people who don’t want war. And we are putting this together with other wars that this administration is either threatening, as in the case of Iran, or is involved in, as in the case of Yemen, to say this is the time we must build up an anti-war movement, stop the orchestration of a US coup in Venezuela, and stop the US from being dragged into yet another war.
NARRATOR: What happens now remains unclear, but the general danger to diplomatic relations, and thus to peace, are greatly increased now. /
Anti-Сoup Activists Charged With ‘Interfering’ In US Raid on Venezuelan Embassy
US police raided the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC Thursday morning, arresting four activists from the Embassy Protection Collective who had lived inside the building for over a month, insisting they were taking care of the embassy on behalf of the Venezuelan government until the crisis is resolved.
Members of the Embassy Protection Collective who were arrested by armed US police inside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC have been released, pending a hearing on various conditions.
The four protesters — Kevin Zeese, Margaret Ann Flowers, Adrienne Pine, and David Vernon Paul — could face up to a year in jail for reportedly trying to prevent the takeover of the building by the US-backed opposition.
The misdemeanour charge of “interfering with a federal law enforcement agent engaged in protective functions” carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The activists, however, claim the US police had no legal right to enter the building, reflecting the opinion of the Venezuelan government.
The embassy protectors are free
— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) May 17, 2019
​Kevin Zeese told journalist Anya Parampil after his release that the activists were looking forward to the trial, and planned to “make the case that there is a legitimate government, that the Vienna convention was violated, that this was an inappropriate and unlawful arrest.”
After departing the courthouse, Zeese told reporters he was confident they would be "found not guilty in the end".
WATCH members of the Embassy Protection Collective speak following their release from jail:
— Anya Parampil (@anyaparampil) May 17, 2019
As a condition of their release, the activists have been ordered by the judge to steer clear of 10 locations currently controlled by representatives of the Venezuelan opposition and to check in weekly with authorities.
The four are due back in court on 12 June.
For 36 days, a collective of anti-war activists from groups including Code Pink, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), Popular Resistance and the Black Alliance for Peace had been residing in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC's Georgetown district, with the express permission of the Venezuelan foreign ministry.
The activists sought to prevent it from being seized by those representing the US-backed “self-proclaimed president” Juan Guaido, whose operatives have taken possession of other Venezuelan diplomatic buildings after the last Venezuelan diplomats departed the country in late April, when their visas expired.
Pro-Guaido protesters were allowed by US police to lay siege to the embassy building, blocking all entry and supplies, according to Code Pink's Medea Benjamin, while another activist, reporter Mark Hand, accused the municipal water company DC Water of leaving the activists without water, and public utility Pepco for the continued blackout.
The activists maintain that, as per the Vienna Convention of 1961, the legal owner of the embassy building is the Venezuelan government in Caracas.
Venezuelan Vice Minister for North American Relations Carlos Ron condemned the US police raid on the embassy, calling it an “unlawful breach of the Vienna Convention” and confirming that the Venezuelan government did not authorise any US authorities to enter the building, which under international law is considered Venezuelan diplomatic property.
However, since 23 January, US officials have recognised Juan Guaido as the country's president and have been citing Carlos Vecchio, Guaido's "ambassador" to Washington, who has claimed the embassy on behalf of Guaido's government.
Juan Guaido’s three attempts to stage coups d'etat, however, have all fallen through.
Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro has said his government had defeated the "small" uprising, which he denounced as a coup attempt, adding the attorney general had designated three special prosecutors to investigate the uprising and interrogate those involved.
---After more than a month of living in the Venezuelan embassy, DC police and secret service broke open the doors to arrest for activists who had been staying in the embassy to protect it against an opposition take-over. The move sets a dangerous precedent, says Medea Benjamin ---

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