Activists from across the country, including a group of tenants staying inside the embassy as the invited guests of the legitimate government, have working around the clock to prevent the illegal seizure of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C. by opposition forces loyal to coup leader Juan Guaido. On Thursday, April 25, a spirited rally was held in front of the building after dozens slept in the embassy the previous night.
Peace and justice activists from Code Pink and Popular Resistance initiated the Embassy Protection Collective to coordinate this crucial work, and members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation are mobilizing to participate in the defense of the Venezuelan people’s property that has been targeted by the pro-imperialist opposition. Many activists-tenants have slept in the embassy continuously since April 10, with some staying full-time and others rotating in shifts.
The activists are present at the explicit request and consent of the Venezuelan government. Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said outside the United Nations Thursday: “We have to protect that Venezuelan building. It would be crazy to take it over illegally, right? Have we proposed to do that in the U.S. Embassy in Caracas? Never.”
In fact, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer from the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund representing the collective, said at a press conference held as part of Thursday’s rally, “Many of the people who are here, who have been here for two weeks, have established a legal tenancy under the laws of the District of Columbia. There has been no due process, no notice of eviction, which would be required in order to remove people who have a legal tenancy from this building.”
If the Venezuelan embassy is allowed to be seized in the name of Guaido, it would set a dangerous precedent that could be followed elsewhere in the hemisphere, where so far only Costa Rica has permitted the occupation of diplomatic offices by the Venezuelan opposition.
“Our legal presence here stands in stark contrast to the illegal, unrecognized Guaido opposition diplomatic mission,” said Kei Pritsker, a member of the PSL and the Embassy Protection Collective. “We’re going to defend the embassy, to defend democracy … to defend the Venezuelan people from U.S. imperialism.”
Some of the activists came from thousands of miles away, answering the call put out by the collective about the urgency of this critical week.
Linda Winter, an activist who flew to DC from Chicago to participate in the protest after she heard the collective’s urgent requests for support, said, “There were a lot of unknowns” in coming to DC to join the protest. “Would I be going back home on my return flight, or would I be in jail?”
Winter become politically involved following the election of Donald Trump in 2016. However, she said that what really radicalized her was the Democrats’ failure to meaningfully oppose Trump’s policies. “Right now, the Democrats want to make war even more than the Republicans.” she said, “It was a privilege to be part of this action in solidarity with the Venezuelan people.”
Rev. Annie Chambers, who traveled from Baltimore and co-chairs the National Welfare Rights Organization, told Liberation News, “We are supporting the poor and working-class people in Venezuela. They have the right to elect who they want for president … the people should stand up all over the world against this.”
“We know that the food and aid they’re sending comes with strings attached ,” Chambers said, “Kudos to the people in Venezuela who say, ‘we won’t be bought off.’”
Kevin Zeese, a lawyer and member of Popular Resistance who helped form the Embassy Protection Collective, relayed to the crowd what exactly they’re defending in Venezuela.
“In Venezuela, the poorest people come first, in the U.S. the corporations come first,” Zeese said. “That’s what this fight is really all about.”
“This is a beautiful representation of what a community in resistance looks like,” Benjamin told the crowd.
Hands off the property of the Venezuelan people! Join ongoing actions this weekend.