On the morning of May 16, multiple Washington, D.C., and federal police agencies broke into Venezuela’s Embassy. Equipped with battering rams, sledgehammers, wrecking bars and an army of police, some in flak jackets, others in shirt sleeves, they set a dangerous precedent by violating long-established international conventions protecting embassies in countries where diplomatic relations have been broken.
The fight to stop the U.S.-based, regime-change coup attempt in Venezuela, to stop the starvation sanctions on the people of Venezuela imposed by the U.S. government, is growing. On May 18, a major mobilization defending Venezuela’s sovereignty will gather at the now-vacant embassy in Washington. On May 19, the Rev. Jesse Jackson will return to the embassy to launch a new anti-war movement.
Although the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela repeatedly stated that the Venezuela Embassy Protection Collective had the government’s permission to be in the building, U.S. police agencies removed and arrested the four representatives of the collective on May 16. In fact, President Nicolás Maduro has ordered additional protection for the U.S. Embassy in Caracas after the violation of its embassy. Arrested were Dr. Margaret Flowers, David Paul, Kevin Zeese and Adrienne Pine. Still in jail, Pine published an article explaining why an educator was protecting the Venezuelan Embassy. In the article, she shows the similarities and outcome of the 2009 U.S. coup in Honduras with what is being attempted by the U.S. and its elites in Venezuela.
Article 22 of the Vienna Convention of 1961 clearly bars agents of the receiving state — in this case the U.S. — from entering embassy premises without the consent of the head of mission and is under special duty to protect the premises from intrusion, damage and disturbance.
The multiple police agencies of Washington, D.C., looked the other way — violating the Vienna Convention prior to the May 16 incursion — while what can only be described as a well-scripted mob blockaded the Venezuelan Embassy while members of the Embassy Protection Collective were inside. The mob smashed basement windows attempting to break into the building on behalf of U.S.-sponsored agent Juan Guaidó.
They blocked food deliveries and stole food packages. Police actively assisted by cutting ropes lowered from the embassy’s second story windows to bring in donated food. Although the actual Venezuelan government had paid all utility bills, electricity and water were turned off by the electric utility Pepco working with police agents. Service was reconnected on May 16.
On May 15, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. delivered four bags of food, water and pre-charged telephone batteries to the Venezuelan Embassy for the collective blockaded inside. Although it took a struggle to break through the police-supported interference, all four bags were successfully lifted by rope. Unlike May 13, when police cut the ropes, they did not interrupt the effort this time. Instrumental defense came from Black Alliance for Peace members.
The Vienna Convention was established in 1961. Why was it proposed and agreed to? A global anti-colonial struggle raged at that time. The former colonial and imperialist powers sought to protect their installations against the Cuban Revolution, wars of independence in Vietnam, Algeria, Congo and more. Today, with capitalism at a dead end and in decline in the U.S. and Europe, they seem willing to jettison this agreement.
At a time when across the U.S. poor and working-class people find affordable housing beyond their reach, slowly crushed by austerity plans that enrich the 1%, Venezuela, like Cuba, shows that another, better world for all can be won. Bolivarian Venezuela’s Great Housing Mission just reached 2,633,521 homes built and handed over to new residents. At an average of four people per home, that’s over 10.4 million people in a country of roughly 32 million who now live in dignified public housing that became theirs at no to low cost.
Sharon Black from the Baltimore People’s Power Assembly, who was outside the embassy in solidarity with the Embassy Protection Collective, said, “This is why all people struggling to live in this heartland of international capitalism have a stake in defending Venezuelan sovereignty.”