Left to right — David Paul, Adrienne Pine, Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese outside the courthouse prior to the February trial.
Work To Oppose US Imperialism And Build International Solidarity Continues
Embassy Protectors / Popular Resistance
WASHINGTON, DC (June 3, 2020) — The federal charge of “interfering with certain protective functions” levied against four members of the Embassy Protection Collective was formally dropped today in a hearing before Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell in US District Court. The four defendants are Adrienne Pine, David Paul, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. They were arrested on May 16 2019 when federal police raided the Venezuelan Embassy in violation of the Vienna Convention, which requires host countries to protect embassies and restricts them from entering without permission from the sovereign government.
Judge Howell sentenced the Embassy Protective Collective to no jail time. After a jury refused to convict them in early February, resulting in a mistrial, the prosecutors offered to drop the federal charge and substitute one of most minor local misdemeanor charges in the DC Code, incommoding, basically causing a disturbance. The protectors were facing a potential year in jail and $100,000 fine each. They are now on six months of probation.
The four protectors were in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC for over a month last spring with the permission of the elected, constitutional government of Venezuela, which is recognized by the United Nations and over 130 countries. The United States was attempting to overthrow the democratically elected Venezuelan government.
When that failed, it took the unprecedented step of recognizing the then-president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as president and handing Venezuela’s assets in the United States over to him. All of this violates international law.
The Embassy Protection Collective formed in April 2019 to stop the US government from illegally giving Venezuela’s main embassy in the United States to Guaido’s supporters. Guaido’s political party has little support within Venezuela and was behind violent protests in 2014 and 2017 that killed over 140 Venezuelans. V
enezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and other members of the elected government, including President Maduro, expressed their full support for the US peace activists. Many social movements within Venezuela also expressed solidarity with the protectors.
The protectors remained inside the embassy without incident until April 30 when the United States once again attempted and failed to execute a coup. On that day, regime change actors working with the US State Department and Juan Guaido’s “ambassador” Carlos Vecchio placed the embassy under siege, assaulting protectors, damaging and breaking into the embassy and preventing food and supplies from being delivered.
Over the following 16 days, the number of protectors inside dwindled from roughly 80 people to four to conserve food, especially after power and water were illegally cut off around May 9. The four were the last protectors inside when the US government made the decision to conduct a SWAT-style raid.
Today’s sentence marks yet another victory in the effort to protect the Venezuelan Embassy. The Embassy Protection Collective broke through the blockade and got supplies to the people inside; the people inside prevented the coup supporters from staying in the embassy; the embassy was not turned over to Guaido — it remains empty today — and now the federal charges have been dropped.
The United States continues to threaten the Venezuelan people using tactics illegal under international law. In recent months, the economic war has been heightened and the President and other members of the Venezuelan government are facing bogus drug trafficking charges by the US Department of Justice.
According to the DEA, Venezuela is a minor transhipment point for drugs while countries allied with the United States like Colombia and Honduras are major drug-trafficking states. The US has put a bounty on Venezuelan officials, the US Navy is surrounding Venezuela’s coast and US soldiers have been sent to the Venezuelan border within Colombia and US-backed mercenaries have tried to enter Venezuela to kidnap or assassinate the President. None of this has deterred the Venezuelan people from defending their sovereignty and the revolutionary Bolivarian process.
The Embassy Protection Collective is planning to host a webinar featuring social movement leaders from Venezuela in an effort to build international solidarity and opposition to US imperialism. The protectors share a vision with Venezuelans and many people around the world of a future based on peace between countries, international cooperation and respect for international law.
The US activists hope their government will end its sanctions, blockade and aggression toward Venezuela and all countries being targeted and join in the spirit of international cooperation that prevails in this time of a global pandemic, recession and climate crisis.
The four embassy protectors thank the many people in the US, Venezuela and around the world who supported them through the last year. They thank their defense committee for building that support and raising funds to pay legal fees. They thank their excellent legal team. And they affirm their solidarity with all who are resisting injustice and state violence both domestically and abroad.
Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, David Paul, and Adrienne Pine at windows of the Venezuelan Embassy
Failed Coup Attempt in Venezuela
The Embassy Protection Collective
You are likely aware of the attempted US-led coup in Venezuela that has failed. However, the US is ignoring that and turning over assets to the opposition. We, the Embassy Protection Collective (Colectivos Por La Paz), are staying in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC to protect it from takeover by the opposition. We need your help.
The Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective is approaching a crucial week. On or after April 25, we expect the illegitimate opposition to try take the embassy with the help of the Trump administration. We need a strong show of support to stop them.
As a step toward showing that support, we will be publishing the Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective (Colectivos Por La Paz). A copy is below . . . . Please join us and show solidarity with Venezuela. Share this email widely and urge people and organizations to sign on to the Declaration: http://bit.ly/EPCDeclaration.
Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective (Colectivos Por La Paz)
(May 20, 2019) — We have joined together as the Embassy Protection Collective to show solidarity with the people of Venezuela and their right to determine their elected government. We are staying in the Venezuelan embassy with the permission of the legitimate Venezuelan government under President Nicolas Maduro. We seek to provide a nonviolent barrier to the threatened opposition takeover of their embassy in Washington, DC by being a presence at the embassy every day of the week for 24 hours a day.
The Collective is working from the embassy, located in the heart of Georgetown in Washington, DC during the day and holding seminars and cultural events in the evenings, as well as sleeping in the embassy. Events include forums on Venezuela, its government, economy and the ongoing attempted coup. We are also holding seminars on US foreign policy toward Africa, Honduras and Iran, the prosecution of Julian Assange and other issues.
There is great cause for us to be concerned about a hostile takeover of the DC Embassy. On March 18, 2019, the Venezuelan opposition took over the military attaché building on 2409 California St in Washington DC, with the help of the DC Police and Secret Service. On that same day, the opposition also took over the Venezuelan Consulate in New York City. They have publicly threatened to take over the embassy itself.
International Law Protects Foreign Embassies Located In The United States
According to Article 22 of the 1961 Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations, foreign embassies should be protected by the United States government and their space should not be violated by the US government. Specifically, international law requires:
- The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
- The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
- The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.
The Trump Administration is violating the Vienna Convention by not only allowing the illegal seizure of diplomatic premises but by facilitating it. The Election Protection Collective is supporting the people of Venezuela by taking responsibility to ensure that Article 22 of the Vienna Convention is followed.
The Elected Government of President Maduro Remains In Power
The government of President Nicolás Maduro was re-elected on May 20, 2018 in response to the opposition demanding an early election. The election was held consistent with the Venezuelan Constitution, in consultation with opposition parties and as determined by the National Electoral Council, an independent branch of the Venezuelan government.
Sixteen parties participated in the election with six candidates competing for the presidency. President Maduro won by a wide margin, obtaining 6,248,864 votes, 67.84%; followed by Henri Falcón with 1,927,958, 20.93%; Javier Bertucci with 1,015,895, 10.82%; and Reinaldo Quijada, who obtained 36,246 votes, 0.39% of the total. A total of 9,389,056 people voted, 46% of eligible voters.
The electoral process was observed by more than 150 election observers. This included 14 electoral commissions from eight countries among them the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America; two technical electoral missions; and 18 journalists from different parts of the world, among others. According to the international observers, “the elections were very transparent and complied with international parameters and national legislation.”
In a letter to the European Union correcting some of the false statements made about the election, election observers wrote: “We were unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly, that the election conditions were not biased, that genuine irregularities were exceptionally few and of a very minor nature.”
Voting machines were audited before and immediately after the election. Venezuela does something no other country in the world does, a public Citizen’s Audit of a random sample of 52 to 54% of voting machines. The Citizen’s Audit is observed by the media, the public, and all opposition parties, who sign the audits.
The Invalid Self-Appointment of Juan Guaidó Violated Venezuelan Law
Juan Guaidó’s self-appointment as interim president violated the Constitution of Venezuela. The language of the Venezuelan Constitution is clear regarding when the president of the National Assembly can become president and none of the conditions in the Constitution have been met.
The opposition relies on Article 233 of the Constitution, which allows the National Assembly president to serve as interim president only if the president-elect has not yet been inaugurated. Guaidó’s self-appointment occurred after President Maduro had been inaugurated.
Article 233 allows the president of the National Assembly to become president only if the president-elect:
“become[s] permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [equivalent of impeachment]; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.”
None of these conditions were met.
If Guaidó had met the above conditions, Article 233 allows him to serve for only 30 consecutive days pending election and inauguration of the new President. Guaidó’s self-appointment and fraudulent inauguration occurred more than 30 days ago and no election has been scheduled.
In a press briefing, Elliot Abrams, the US Special Representative for Venezuela, could not explain these violations of law by Guaidó and admitted that Guaidó is not “able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro still is there.” Even Abrams admits that Guaidó is not the president. Therefore, he has no authority over the Venezuelan embassy.
The Role of the Embassy Protection Collective
The Embassy Protection Collective is in the embassy with the permission of the Venezuelan government. We are upholding international law and the Venezuelan Constitution and opposing a coup attempt against the legitimate government of Venezuela on behalf of the people of Venezuela who elected their government.
The Embassy Protection Collective is made up of civilians, United States citizens, who are peacefully defending the embassy. If the opposition enters, they will be trespassing. We call on the DC police, Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security and any other law enforcement agency to uphold the law and prevent the opposition from trespassing.
The Collective feels a responsibility to hold our government to a standard of respecting the rule of law as well as a responsibility to stand in solidarity with the people of Venezuela.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.