For the past month, a small group of anti-war, pro-Maduro protesters have been occupying the Venezuelan embassy in Washington after staffers who were forced to leave for Venezuela handed them the keys on their way out.
Now, a Republican lawmaker wants them gone.
Colorado Rep. Scott Tipton tweeted Friday that he asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to remove the “illegal occupants” from the embassy, a brick building on a quiet street about a mile from the White House.
“The U.S. government must remain strong in its support of the Venezuelan people and the legitimate government led by interim President Juan Guaidó,” Tipton said in a tweet that included a formal letter to Pompeo. “I’ve asked Secretary Pompeo to remove the illegal occupants from the radical group Code Pink from the Venezuelan embassy in Washington.”
His call came a day after three protesters were arrested outside the embassy, the third day of a standoff between the activist group Code Pink and pro-Guaidó protesters who gathered in Washington after the lawmaker recognized as the legitimate leader of Venezuela by the U.S. called for “Operation Liberty” to begin on Tuesday. Vox reported that a pro-Guaidó and a pro-Maduro protester were arrested, and pro-Guaidó protesters challenged the pro-Maduro protesters, who are Americans, to chant in Spanish.
Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans said Tipton’s request to Pompeo violates the law.
“Obviously he doesn’t know anything about the Geneva Convention or international law,” Evans said. “We have lawyers and the [Washington] D.C. police have let us know that they aren’t going to arrest anyone for being inside because their lawyers have told them legally, the building is the embassy of the Venezuelan government.”
Guaidó representatives in the U.S. have taken control of other buildings previously run by the government of Nicolas Maduro, like the consulate in New York City. Guaidó’s U.S. ambassador, Carlos Vecchio, told the Washington Post that the Guaidó government is working through official channels to reclaim the embassy. The State Department considers the embassy to be the legal property of Guaidó’s interim government.
A spokesperson for Florida Sen. Rick Scott said he hadn’t seen Tipton’s letter on Friday but that “Code Pink is a reprehensible organization that openly supports the Maduro regime, which continues to terrorize and murder its citizens, including children.”