Federal charges against four Venezuelan Embassy protectors dropped!

David Paul, Adrienne Pine, Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese outside the courthouse prior to the February trial.

Statement by the four Embassy Protectors, Washington, D.C., 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 D.C. Code, incommoding, that is, basically causing a disturbance. The protectors faced a potential year in jail and $100,000 fine each. They are now free on six months of probation.

The four protectors were in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. 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 Guaidó, 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 Guaidó’s supporters. Guaidó’s political party has little support within Venezuela and was behind violent protests in 2014 and 2017 that killed over 140 Venezuelans. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and other members of the elected government, including President Maduro, expressed their full support for the U.S. 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 U.S. State Department and Juan Guaidó’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 U.S. 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 Guaidó. It remains empty today. The federal charges against the four 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 escalated. The President and other members of the Venezuelan government are facing bogus drug trafficking charges by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Drug Enforcement Agency has falsely labeled Venezuela a minor transshipment point for drugs. Meanwhile, major drug trafficking states allied with the United States, Colombia and Honduras, are ignored with impunity. The U.S. has placed a bounty on Venezuelan officials. The U.S. Navy is surrounding Venezuela’s coastal region while U.S. soldiers have been sent from Colombia to the Venezuelan border. U.S.-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 their Bolivarian revolutionary 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S., 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.

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