Venezuelan Embassy Showdown Continues

Several days after a U.S.-backed coup d’etat fizzled in Venezuela, the class and racial schisms undergirding the Trump administration’s attempt to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro continue to play out on the front steps of the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown.

That’s where law enforcement officials arrested four people last week in what activists have called a violation of international law.

On Saturday, protesters towing signs, drums, and loudspeakers marched from the Venezuelan Embassy to the White House in support of the pro-Maduro quartet that had long refused to leave the ambassadorial dwellings, even as authorities cut off electricity and water and issued a fake eviction notice.

“The protectors held down the embassy. After the failed coup, the opposition that represents the wealthy special class interests of white Venezuelans and the United States broke into the embassy while the Secret Service idly stood by,” said Garrett Harris of the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP), an anti-imperialist collective.

To Harris and his comrades’ disappointment, a D.C. judge formally charged the four embassy protectors last Friday and issued a stay-away order.

“This is illegal because this is supposed to be Venezuelan soil,” said Garrett, also a member of Pan-African Community Action, a BAP umbrella organization. “We have the blessing of the Venezuelan government and people are breaking international law by occupying that space.”

In January, Maduro and U.S.-backed Venezuela National Assembly President Juan Guaido clashed after Guaido named himself interim president in the aftermath of Maduro’s reelection. Earlier this week, Maduro called for an early vote for the National Assembly, a suggestion that his detractors mocked on social media. Meanwhile, Amnesty International has urged the International Criminal Court to look into Maduro’s alleged crackdown on anti-government protests. The European Union has also condemned Maduro’s attempts to block members from entering parliament.

But pro-Maduro supporters posted in front of the Venezuelan Embassy have appeared to ignore those institutional reactions, especially since the Rev. Jesse Jackson appeared as a resource.

On Sunday, Jackson, a key proponent of mediation between Maduro and Guaido, spoke before a large crowd of protesters in front of the Venezuelan Embassy. Days earlier, before the quartet’s arrest, he brought bags of food to the embassy.

“They’re trying to choke [protesters] into submission,” Jackson said. “I’m not interested in taking sides as much as reconciling sides. We support the United Nations [in] bringing the competing sides to the table. We choose the bargaining table. We want food, water, clothing, housing, education, and doctors in Venezuela now. We cannot sit by and support the overthrow of the government and say we have clean hands.”

Venezuela currently stands alongside Iran as a country of interest to the Trump administration, in part because of superfluous oil reserves under the control of its nationalized oil company. U.S. economic sanctions against oil providers have crippled the Venezuelan economy, causing a yearslong food crisis credited with more than 40,000 deaths.

Since the failed April 30 coup, Maduro has brushed off U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton’s demands that he resign and leave the country. During a press conference, Bolton revealed that two Maduro administration officials backed out of a plan to break away from Maduro. Despite Trump’s frustration with recent events, there has been little indication that Bolton will lose his job.

“John Bolton said the U.S. is in Venezuela for oil. They have been trying to overthrow the government for a long time,” said Benjamin Woods, another BAP member who protested on Saturday during the event organized by BAP, Code Pink, the Answer Coalition, and other entities.

“I stand in solidarity with the working-class people of Venezuela,” Woods said. “The solution to this issue is the organization of anti-imperialist movement in the U.S. so we can connect with our struggling brothers and sisters abroad. Once we bring working-class Black people together, the whole character [of the movement] changes.”

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