Venezuelan lawmakers facing arrest seek refuge at embassies

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido holds a press conference in Caracas on Thursday, May 9. EFE-EPA/Miguel Gutierrez

CARACAS.– Two Venezuelan opposition lawmakers facing arrest for sedition in connection with last week’s failed uprising against President Nicolas Maduro’s leftist government have taken refuge at foreign embassies in Caracas.

Mariela Magallanes was admitted Wednesday to the residence of the Italian ambassador, media outlets reported.

While Richard Blanco sought refuge Thursday at the Argentine Embassy, his son said in an Instagram post.

The deputy speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Edgar Zambrano, was taken into custody Wednesday night after the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) – a rival legislative body dominated by Maduro supporters – revoked his parliamentary immunity.

The ANC likewise retired the immunity of six other legislators, including Magallanes and Blanco, acting on a recommendation from Venezuela’s Supreme Court, and is expected to take the same action with regard to three more National Assembly members.

Prosecutors have charged the 10 lawmakers with offenses including conspiracy, rebellion and «instigation to insurrection,» for their part in the attempt by National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido to rally the armed forces behind a bid to oust Maduro.

Guaido, who proclaimed himself acting president on Jan. 23, denouncing Maduro’s May 2018 re-election as illegitimate, went last Tuesday to an airbase in Caracas to issue a call for the military to abandon the current government.

He was accompanied by some two-dozen defectors from the National Guard and by Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the rightist Popular Will party.

Lopez, who had been under house arrest after a conviction for instigating violent anti-government protests in 2014, was freed earlier that day with the connivance of the since-dismissed head of the Sebin intelligence service.

Following the collapse of the uprising, Lopez went to the Chilean Embassy in Caracas and ultimately found refuge in the residence of the Spanish ambassador.

The 25 National Guard troops who flocked to Guaido’s banner went to the Brazilian Embassy and were granted asylum.

The United States is one of the more than 50 nations who have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s interim head of state. More than 120 other countries – including Russia, China, India and Japan – continue to acknowledge Maduro as president.

Guaido suspended a public event planned for Thursday «given the gravity» of the legal offensive against the lawmakers, which one of his aides characterized as «an attempt on the part of the usurping regime to put an end to the National Assembly.»

At a subsequent press conference, Guaido denounced the criminal charges against the 10 legislators as a «blow against parliament» and announced plans for nationwide protests over the weekend.

«We are going to gather on Saturday at 10.00 in the morning across the country,» he said. «We won’t get off the streets.»

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