US police move to eject pro-Maduro activists from Venezuela embassy

Washington (AFP) –


US police acted Monday night to remove Americans who have been occupying the Venezuelan embassy in Washington in a bid to prevent the entry of a representative of opposition leader Juan Guaido.

The administration of President Donald Trump and some 50 other countries recognize Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate acting leader as he tries to force the departure of President Nicolas Maduro amid an acute economic meltdown.

"The authorities have made their move," Rafael Alfonso, a member of the delegation of Carlos Vecchio, Guaido's designated representative in the US, told AFP.

Police with flashlights took up positions at the gate of the compound, which was closed with chains and locks.

They spoke with activists inside and with Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund who was negotiating with the agents.

After five minutes, police returned to seal the door and the activists returned to the second floor.

"They are defending international law, defending the Vienna Convention and are worried about a domino effect," the lawyer said about the activists. "This is a very dangerous path."

Around 100 Venezuelans waving the red, yellow and blue flag of their country sang the national anthem outside as the US activists peeked out from inside the four-story building.

Carmen Ruzza, a 46-year-old Venezuelan scholar from American University, said she had been visiting the embassy every day with coffee and donuts while a group of people surrounded the diplomatic compound to pressure the activists to leave.

"This is a microcosm of the struggle we have in Venezuela," she said.

Ruzza called the Maduro government a "criminal regime, a drug trafficking regime that kills, represses."

For weeks, an unclear number of Americans belonging to a group calling itself the Embassy Protection Collective has been living in the embassy, with the consent of the Maduro government.

The American squatters aim to block the entry of the Guaido delegation.

The Venezuelan diplomats who had been posted there left after the countries withdrew their respective ambassadors in April.