By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
CARACAS, Venezuela – Chile’s Foreign Ministry granted political asylum to one of Venezuela’s most prominent opposition leaders, Freddy Guevara. He has taken refuge in the Chilean ambassador’s residence.
The Ministry said in a statement that “it had welcomed congressman Freddy Guevara as a guest, in line with Chile’s humanitarian tradition.” Mr. Guevara, 31, is the vice-president of Venezuela’s National Assembly. He has been accused of instigating violence during opposition protests, and asks for political protection because he feels there are imminent threats to his security.
Mr. Guevara arrived in Caracas On November 4 with his girlfriend to take refuge with the Chilean embassy. This concluded a suspenseful 24-hour period in which vehicles belonging to the Sebin intelligence police surrounded Mr. Guevera’s home and forced him into hiding. Mr. Guevara is currently in the ambassador’s residence which is located in an exclusive country club neighborhood with walled-in estates and a golf course. There was no sign of activity at the refuge the following morning.
The Supreme Court of Venezuela is calling for Mr. Guevara’s arrest on allegations of inciting unrest and violence during months of anti-government protests. The National Assembly’s president, Julio Borges, claims President Maduro’s government is behind the court’s ruling. Several other key opposition members have been prosecuted, jailed, or stripped of their political rights since Maduro was elected in 2013. Mr. Borges stated, “Venezuela is hungry for food, but also freedom, justice and dignity.”
The government-stacked Supreme Court barred Mr. Guevara from leaving the country and has called on the Constitutional Assembly to strip his immunity from prosecution. The Constitutional Assembly was recently created to replace the National Assembly and is filled with pro-government members. President Maduro has given the Constitutional Assembly virtually unlimited power. However, law says that the opposition-controlled National Assembly should be the one to determine whether a legislator should lose constitutional immunity. This attempt to shift power away from the National Assembly and prosecute one of its leaders demonstrates Maduro’s effort to tighten his grip on power.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza spoke on behalf of the government and labelled Guevara a coward. He tweeted, “some people are brave when it comes to inciting violence, destruction and death, but when justice is done, they run away in shameful cowardice.” Other government authorities also publicly mocked him for taking refuge in the embassy.
The United States has denounced the pro-government Constitutional Assembly for taking his immunity. Mr. Guevara was often on the front lines of protests demanding early elections, humanitarian aid to alleviate hunger, freedom for imprisoned dissidents, and respect for the National Assembly.
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