Members of the Venezuelan opposition who support self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó have occupied three of Venezuela’s diplomatic properties in the United States. This includes one consular building in New York City and two buildings belonging to the Venezuelan defence ministry in Washington.
Reacting to these developments, members from various social organisations and movements in New York City who oppose the US attempts of intervention in Venezuela and support democratically elected president Nicolás Maduro immediately organised a picket in front of the consular building. They blocked the building’s entrance to prevent more opposition supporters from entering.
“We found out that the Venezuelan opposition had occupied the consulate and we decided to do a picket out front. We went first with a group of 10-12 people and later we brought together a bigger group from different social organizations and movements in the city. We realized that the opposition had gotten inside of the consulate, they had already taken down the poster of Chávez, they had moved the figure of Bolívar and they had put a sign out front that said, “the Consulate will re-open to attend all of the Venezuelans that want to return” [to Venezuela from the US],” explained Manolo de los Santos from Popular Education Project and People’s Forum, two of the organisations participating in the picket.
“They were organizing some type of celebration inside of the consulate with champagne and who knows what else. It was there that we intervened and we blocked the entrance to the Consulate. Many upper-class Venezuelans who are part of the opposition began to arrive to celebrate that the opposition had occupied the consulate. However, we were there for around three hours blocking the entrance and they were unable to enter. They had to move or cancel the party that they had organized,” de los Santos described.
Carlos Vechhio, who is Guaidó’s “ambassador” to the US, said that the opposition forces are hopeful about gaining control of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington in the next few days. These actions by the opposition are happening with the support of the US government. Robert Palldino, a US State Department spokesperson, said that US was “pleased to support these requests.”
However, these occupation actions of Venezuelan diplomatic properties are illegal under International law and the guidelines established by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza denounced the opposition’s actions and warned the US of legal reciprocal consequences in a statement. Citing the Convention, his statement added, “Venezuela’s diplomatic assets in the U.S. can only be used by the official personnel that represent the democratic and constitutional government of President Nicolas Maduro.”
According to the Convention, a foreign mission’s premises are “inviolable,” and that “The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.” Even in case diplomatic relations between the two countries are broken off, article 45 of the Convention says, “The receiving State must, even in case of armed conflict, respect and protect the premises of the mission, together with its property and archives.”
Chanting “Hands off Venezuela!” and “Chávez lives, the struggle continues!”, the protestors in NYC will continue to be vigilant and keep check on the developments in the coming days. “We ruined their party today, but we are remaining alert to see what will happen in the next few days,” de los Santos said.