Merida, May 15, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Russia told the United States that Venezuela’s people should be the only ones to decide the future of the country during a three-hour-long bilateral meeting held in Sochi, Russia on Tuesday.
The high level meeting, which bought together Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, dealt with a number of issues including Iran, nuclear disarmament, and Syria, but foreign involvement in Venezuela was one of the key disputes. Subsequent announcements from both sides indicated that no agreements had been made nor common ground reached.
The United States and fifty-three other nations maintain that Venezuela’s self-declared leader Juan Guaido is the lawful president, while Russia and roughly 75 percent of the world’s governments continue to have relations with Nicolas Maduro, who was elected in May 2018.
The US has hardened its stance against Caracas in recent months in its bid to oust Maduro, including ramping up economic sanctions and threatening military intervention, with tensions flaring over a naval border incursion last Thursday
In Sochi, Lavrov warned that US attacks against Venezuela do nothing to promote a democratic solution to the current crisis.
“Threats against Maduro’s administration, which are heard from U.S. officials and Guaido, who constantly reminds us of his right to invite an armed intervention from abroad, have nothing in common with democracy,” Lavrov told Pompeo, drawing parallels with previous regime change efforts which ended in war, such as in Iraq and Libya.
Lavrov’s remarks were backed up by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who also met Pompeo on his trip. Putin’s aide described the discussion as “rather frank,” with the Russian leader informing Pompeo that “any steps that may provoke a civil war in [Venezuela] are unacceptable.”
Pompeo, for his part, called for “every country interfering in Venezuela to cease doing that.” Nonetheless, he went on to reiterate his government’s position that “Maduro must go.”
Four more lawmakers accused of treason
Likewise on Tuesday, more opposition Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) deputies had their parliamentary immunity from prosecution revoked by the National Constituent Assembly (ANC).
The lawmakers join a number of their colleagues in being accused of treason, conspiracy, and instigating civil rebellion, amongst other charges, by the Supreme Court, all related to their alleged involvement in the unsuccessful April 30 putsch.
On April 30, AN President Juan Guaido attempted to lead a military uprising to oust President Maduro. The attempted coup failed, however, when it became apparent that all but a handful of soldiers remained loyal to the sitting president.
Following Tuesday’s decision, Deputies Carlos Paparino (First Justice, Merida State) and Miguel Pizarro (First Justice, Miranda State), as well as Substitute Deputies Franco Casella (Popular Will, Miranda State) and Winston Flores (Popular Will, Vargas State) may now be subject to criminal prosecution. This follows ten other right wing lawmakers who had their immunity revoked last week, with AN Vice President Edgar Zambrano taken into custody Wednesday. AN President Guaido also had his immunity lifted in April and investigations into the self-proclaimed “interim president” are ongoing.
Following the vote, ANC President Diosdado Cabello hinted that two more prominent opposition leaders – ex-governor of Bolivar State and Causa R leader, Andres Velazquez, and far-right Vente Venezuela party head Maria Corina Machado – may also be formally accused.
After learning of the decision, Deputy Paparoni told press, “None of us believe ourselves to be, nor are, martyrs, but we are also not willing to abandon this struggle for the future.”
Casella, on the other hand, decided to flee the accusations, taking refuge in the residence of the Mexican ambassador. A number of other accused opposition leaders also currently living in the residence of the Argentinian, Spanish, and Italian ambassadors in Caracas.
Alleged bomb alert at AN Palace
The Federal Legislative Palace in the Capitolio district of Caracas was cordoned off by police Tuesday following an alleged bomb threat which prevented the National Assembly from holding session.
ANC President Cabello later announced that “Fortunately, no explosive artefact was found.”
AN President Guaido, however, disputed the allegation, claiming that the government was “sabotaging” the building to prevent its functioning.
His position was supported by a small number of other opposition lawmakers who turned up to take part in the session. The opposition members considered holding the session in another location before Guaido declared it would be postponed, with the body going on to successfully hold session on Wednesday.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court declared the National Assembly in contempt of court in 2016, and its decisions “null and void,” following a series of procedural irregularities. The opposition-controlled body does not recognise this decision, however, and continues to call sessions.
US police threaten to violate Vienna Convention
Venezuela’s political crisis also generated tension in Washington DC, as US police looked to break into the Venezuelan embassy and evict the members of the Embassy Protection Collective on Monday.
The embassy is currently being occupied by a number of US solidarity activists after being left vacant as the two countries broke diplomatic relations in January when the Trump administration recognised Guaido as “Interim President”. This was the second failed attempt by Guaido’s US representative, Carlos Vecchio, to take control of the building.
Authorities have cut off water and electricity to the building, while police and Guaido’s supporters have blocked food from entering. Solidarity movements have denounced this as a breach of human rights and international law.
Washington DC Metropolitan police attempted to enter the embassy in the evening after reading ad hoc eviction notice and breaking a chain closing off the entrance to the building. However, an incursion into the building and eventual arrests were halted following discussions with the activists’ attorney and the lack of formal eviction or arrest warrants. Activists have since claimed that the eviction notice read out was a fake.
Fears remain, however, that the diplomatic building is soon to be breached and those inside arrested, sparking a solidarity rally in Caracas Wednesday. Meanwhile the Collective was visited by Reverend Jesse Jackson Wednesday, who brought supplies for those inside. A national demonstration to support the collective is also due to be held in the United States this Saturday.