On 16th May, police officers broke into the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC and arrested four members of the Protection Collective. For over a month, the protectors had stayed in the building to shield it from a raid by authorities, in the fear diplomatic staff would be removed in concert with the then-ongoing attempted ouster of Venezuela’s lawfully elected president Nicolas Maduro.
Police had attempted to raid the embassy three days earlier, reading an unsigned piece of paper titled “Trespassing Notice,” which stated the US government recognized Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela and Carlos Vecchio as Venezuelan ambassador to the US. However, they departed the scene after the protectors’ attorney informed them they needed a warrant to enter the premises.
However, Guaido’s attempts to convince the Venezuelan military to seize power from Maduro failed, and the coup ran out of steam when it became clear Washington’s chosen leader-in-waiting commanded virtually no support among the Venezuelan people. Likewise, the Trump administration’s suggestions of potential US military intervention in Venezuela have evaporated.
Nonetheless, the four Embassy Protectors remain subject to prosecution for ‘interference with certain protective functions’, and will be tried 9th July by the chief judge of the US District Court in Washington DC, Beryl A. Howell. If convicted, they face up to one year in prison and up to US$100,000 in fines.
In a statement, the group alleged that, ironically, the State Department "was failing to protect the embassy as it allowed pro-coup advocates to break windows and doors, break and enter into the building, deface the building and assault people outside the building while threatening those inside the building". They also claim to have organized "a strong legal team that will defend against the federal charges".
"We know the United States has virtually unlimited resources and the Trump administration is angry the protection of the Venezuelan Embassy got international news coverage and put a spotlight on the US violation of the Vienna Convention by illegally invading the embassy with more than 100 police, many in paramilitary gear, and allowing a fictional ambassador of a failed US coup to treat the embassy as his own,” they continued.
Supporters of the Protection Collective can donate to their legal fund via an online crowdfunding page.