Since April 15, they have been holed up in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C.
Outside, hundreds of Venezuelan émigrés support a U.S.-backed coup intent on replacing the legally elected president Nicolás Maduro with self-appointed opposition Juan Guaidó.
Now they are preventing food, medicine, and supplies from getting inside the embassy.
Despite the electric bills being paid and the government of President Maduro’s invitation to protesters, Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO) worked in conjunction with the United States Secret Service last Tuesday to cut off the embassy‘s power.
One of the invited protesters, Paki Weiland, from the activist group CodePink, said:
“It is totally illegal and dangerous for the U.S. cut off water and electricity, deny access to food, to those of us residing lawfully inside the embassy building as guests of the Venezuelan government. It would also be illegal and dangerous to hand over the keys of the embassy to an un-elected opposition. I believe in peace and the rule of law, and we are the legal tenants of this Embassy with permission from the Venezuelan government. There is no reason why the U.S. administration and police presence should be assisting the opposition’s attempts to starve us out of the building.”
“The violence and denial of access to food and water taking place at the Venezuelan Embassy in D.C. is a microcosm of the what is taking place in Venezuela as the U.S. continues to try and orchestrate a coup. It is dangerous and appalling. The U.S. administration must immediately turn water and electricity back on, allow food into the building, and protect activists outside from being physically assaulted.”
The White House revoked Nicolás Maduro’s diplomatic corps’ status and ordered it to vacate the embassy on April 24.
Before leaving, though, it welcomed the American anti-interventionist activists in to occupy.
Pro-Guaidó protesters outside, however, claim the building is theirs, and have been camping outside it in tents, obstructing entrances, and harassing pro-Maduro opponents.
Medea Benjamin insists she is trying to preserve peace until a neutral third party, like Switzerland, assumes embassy control; Guaidó’s supporters argue they do not favor American military intervention in Venezuela, but only wish the Americans leave a building that isn’t theirs, despite their official invitation.
Recent days have seen activists arrested for trying to deliver food into the embassy. One tossed bread and lettuce onto the patio; another tried to toss a cucumber.
“Every time we’ve tried to bring food in, we have been physically attacked by the opposition.”
Writing for Truthdig, Benjamin stated:
“Supporters who have tried to bring food have been arrested. This was the case of CODEPINK organizer Ariel Gold. When she found all entrances blocked, she threw bread into an empty ramp outside a door and was arrested for ‘throwing missiles.’ When we tied a package to a rope to send food up through a window, three of us were physically assaulted and despite clear video evidence, the police refused to arrest our attacker.”
About the Secret Service’s complicity in attempting to oust her fellow activists, Benjamin added:
“[The] Secret Service, which is tasked with guarding embassies, has allowed this to happen. They have had a constant presence at the Embassy since May 1 but have stood by as this group damages the building and threatens the peace activists inside and outside. They have allowed the opposition to bang on the doors with sledgehammers to try to break in, post signs all over the property against the wishes of the legal owners, physically attack people trying to get food inside, and destroy and steal the property of the Embassy Protection Collective (food, placards, signs, canopy). In violation of the city’s noise ordinance, the mob has been blasting sirens all day long at decibels so high that even the Secret Service police have been wearing ear plugs. They block the sidewalks and all public passages. They have set up 10 canopies and 3 tents to surround the entire building. When we tried to set up a canopy, we were attacked by Guaido supporters, but it was our member, Tighe Barry, who was arrested and accused of pushing a Secret Service officer.”
Both can be equally odious.
Our government’s decision to insinuate itself on Guaidó’s side, however, has nothing to do with “overthrowing Socialism” or “bringing democracy.”
It has to do with Trump’s re-election.
And, naturally, oil.
We, therefore, manufactured this crisis to provide an excuse to paint the Socialist Maduro as an abject monster so we, the capitalist heroes, can once again ride in and install someone–Guaidó –more amenable to our corporate interests.
In so doing, the Trump administration is taking a page out of a hackneyed playbook to ensure the American people are sufficiently distracted from the ways it is chipping away at our institutions–all so the president can boost flagging poll numbers ahead of the 2020 election.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons