Venezuelan Opposition Leader Faces Trial for Protest Violence, Flees to Chilean Embassy

Popular Will party leader Freddy Guevara faces trial in connection to four months of violent anti-government protests aimed at ousting President Nicolas Maduro.

By Lucas Koerner
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Popular Will party coordinator Freddy Guevara
Guevara is being charged with criminal association, continuous public instigation, and use of minors to commit crimes in connection with his role in leading four months of violent anti-government protests aimed at ousting President Nicolas Maduro. (Archive)

Caracas, November 6, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan National Assembly Vice-President Freddy Guevara took refuge in the Chilean embassy Friday evening after the country’s Supreme Court (TSJ) ordered the lifting of the opposition politician’s parliamentary immunity.

On Thursday, Attorney General Tarek William Saab filed a request for impeachment against Guevara in order to charge him with criminal association, continuous public instigation, and use of minors to commit crimes.

However on Friday, the TSJ ruled that given the “flagrancy” of the charges, an impeachment trial under Article 200 of the Constitution is “not applicable” and Guevara’s case should go directly to ordinary criminal courts. The high court also ordered a travel ban be issued against the opposition leader.

In response to the decision, Guevara fled to the Chilean embassy where Santiago has welcomed him as a “guest”.

“In accordance with our humanitarian tradition… the Chilean government has granted [Freddy Guevara] the status of guest of our embassy,” the Chilean Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

For their part, the governments of Spain and Mexico have issued statements condemning the suspension of Guevara’s parliamentary immunity as a violation of the “separation of powers”.

Guevara, the 31-year-old national coordinator of the hard-right Popular Will party, was one of the principal leaders of the Venezuelan opposition’s four-month anti-government protest campaign demanding the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro.

The demonstrations, which saw the widespread use of violent barricades, attacks on public infrastructure and services, and assassinations of government supporters, led to the death of over 125 people.

In an official communiqué Monday, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry expressed its “forceful repudiation” of what it termed “permanent acts of intervention in Venezuelan internal affairs” in reference to the actions by Mexico, Spain, and Chile.

Caracas likewise underscored that Guevara “has at his disposal all of the juridical guarantees to prepare his defense” under the Venezuelan Constitution.

The Chilean government has indicated that it is willing to offer the opposition leader political asylum if and when he requests it.

In August, Chile granted asylum to five members of a “parallel” Supreme Court appointed by the opposition-controlled National Assembly on July 21. The de facto judges, who are wanted by Caracas for allegedly usurping the functions of the sitting Supreme Court, were sworn in last month at the headquarters of the Organization of American States in Washington.

The Michelle Bachelet government’s high-profile backing of the right-wing Venezuelan opposition has, however, stirred controversy among Chileans.

Chilean Senator and presidential candidate Alejandro Navarro has repeatedly spoken out against his government’s denunciation of the Maduro administration as a “dictatorship”, stating in a CNN debate in late September, “Venezuela is a democracy besieged by the US empire”.

Similarly, the grandson of ousted Chilean President Salvador Allende, Pablo Sepulveda Allende, has harshly criticized Santiago’s policy on Venezuela.

“The ‘guest’ of the Chilean government, Freddy Guevara, is the intellectual culprit of hate crimes and arson attacks on public institutions,” he wrote on Twitter.

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