Protests expected at Venezuelan Embassy following ejection of last Maduro supporters
Pro Nicolas Maduro supporters hold signs and speak with a bullhorn from the second floor window of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, Thursday, May 2, 2019. | Andrew Harnik/AP

WASHINGTON—Demonstrators are expected this Saturday at noon at the Venezuelan Embassy here two days after police – following the orders of the right-wing GOP Trump administration – ejected the last four supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from the building.

The eviction, after 38 days, is a proxy for President Donald Trump’s ideological effort to overthrow Maduro, the elected Venezuelan president. It’s also a throwback to both U.S. “gunboat diplomacy” of the 20th century and to prior and frequent U.S. intervention in Latin America, often on behalf of corporate interests.

Police from Trump-controlled federal law enforcement agencies carried out the eviction, without a warrant on the morning of May 16. The eviction was illegal, a top United Nations expert on international law covering embassies says because Maduro approved the supporters’ request to enter.

The battle over the embassy reflects Trump’s scheme to install Juan Guaido, speaker of the former National Assembly. Guaido has proclaimed himself as Venezuela’s interim president. The U.S. also backed a coup attempt against Maduro several weeks ago, which failed.

Trump has also resorted to hampering Venezuelan exports, notably oil. He’s frozen Venezuelan assets in the U.S., prevented transmission of Venezuelan-earned money in the U.S. – again from oil – back to the Latin American nation and issued statements charging Maduro and top members of his government with various crimes, notably corruption and drug-running. His right wing war hawk national security adviser, John Bolton, has suggested a takeover of Venezuela’s oil company by American oil companies would be a good idea.

Trump and his regime’s top staff hate Maduro and the Bolivarian Socialist Republic of Venezuela because Maduro refuses to kowtow to U.S. interests. And Venezuela presents an ideological alternative to U.S.-backed right-wing governments in Brazil, Peru, and other Western Hemisphere nations.

The embassy eviction and Trump’s economic sanctions against Venezuela also divert attention from similar Trump saber-rattling – including imposing an embargo and threatening to send the military — against Iran.

There, the administration claims a potential threat to U.S. forces in next-door Iraq, or to U.S. interests and allies, justifies sending a fleet of warships and mobilizing at least 120,000 members of the military to intervene. But U.S. allies refuse to join in the threats against Iran.

The top British general for the Middle East calls that “threat” a fiction. And the Spanish government re-called one warship which was accompanying that fleet.

The embassy eviction came the day after supporters of Maduro saw a “blockade” against them partially broken when the Rev. Jesse Jackson led Maduro backers in delivering food to those inside on May 15.

Before that, the local utility had cut off power to the building in D.C.’s Georgetown section, and police roadblocks at both ends of the 30th Street block where the embassy is located prevented food and other supplies from getting through. Jackson’s effort broke that blockage.

But, in a “visual” setback, virtually all the pro-Maduro occupants inside the embassy for more than a month were from Code Pink, a predominantly Caucasian group. Representatives of the small Venezuelan community in the D.C. area, which is mostly business owners and anti-Maduro, joined the police blockade outside.

Oil income – Venezuela’s main revenue source — has declined due to the worldwide drop in oil prices, but also due to increasingly creaky Venezuelan refineries, run by the state-owned petroleum company.

The refineries are creaky due to lack of replacement parts thanks in part to the U.S. embargo. Venezuela took over the oil companies to run them in the public interest and has had to struggle to make sure that managers have the technical skills needed to maintain equipment at the most efficient levels. Corporations that profited from that oil in the past can’t, of course, be expected to lend a hand in that regard.

The U.S. and Venezuela broke diplomatic relations early this year.

“Over the past month the police often either sided with the fascists or stood by while peace activists have been harassed and in some cases assaulted,” Fred Mills of Council on Hemispheric Affairs. “Two nights ago, police attempted to intimidate the collective into leaving by issuing an unsigned eviction notice, not even on any agency letterhead, and entering the doorway of the building, thereby trespassing on a sovereign diplomatic mission in violation of international law.”

“The collective has stated they will remain inside the embassy, with the permission of the government of Venezuela, to protect it from takeover by supporters of the fake shadow government of Juan Guaido, until either the State Department further violates the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic relations of 1961 by again entering this mission and arresting them, or an agreement is worked out for another country to take custody of the embassy with the authorization of the constitutional government of Venezuela.”

Alfred de Zayas, the United Nations expert on the international law covering embassies – including those where countries break diplomatic relations – called the eviction illegal. The U.S. had signed that UN convention protecting embassies in 1961, but GOP President Ronald Reagan pulled the U.S. out of it 25 years later – after “multiple violations” of that pact by U.S. governments, de Zayas added.

“The outrageous behavior of the United States with regard to the Venezuelan embassy in Washington violates the Vienna Convention, to which the United States is bound, and which has served United States interests in the past when the premises of U.S. embassies and consulates have been targets of terrorism and/or illegal occupation.”

“As the Venezuelan government has demanded, the United States must comply with the convention, protect the Venezuelan diplomatic premises and respect the human rights of the activists who protect the building with authorization from the Venezuelan government.”

Meanwhile, the Norwegian network NHK reported Maduro’s government and its foes resumed peace talks with sessions in Oslo that concluded on May 16.

Venezuelan Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez and the governor of Miranda province Hector Rodriguez represented the government, while former deputy Gerardo Blyde, former minister Fernando Martinez Mottola and Stalin Gonzales, vice president of the former Venezuelan National Assembly Stalin represented Guaido and the opposition.

Maduro said Rodriguez “is overseas, on a very important mission,” NHK reported, in a dispatch picked up by Agence France-Presse.

Guido’s ambassador, Carlos Vecchio, took over the embassy in D.C. after the evictions and then issued a statement in Spanish advocating the next eviction to be of Maduro’s government.

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CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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