For more than a month, a particularly courageous group of people have dedicated all of their time and energies to protecting the integrity of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Washington, DC, which was officially transferred to their care when diplomatic relations with the US were severed. Even in the event of diplomatic relations being suspended, the US is still obligated to respect international law, and particularly the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961). Under Article 45, even “if diplomatic relations are broken off between two States, or if a mission is permanently or temporarily recalled”—both of which apply to the US–Venezuela conflict—then, “the receiving State [the US] must, even in case of armed conflict, respect and protect the premises of the mission, together with its property and archives”. Under Article 22, the host state is obligated to respect the inviolability of the diplomatic mission, and may not have its agents enter its premises without the consent of the head of the mission—and only one such person was the recognized head of the mission, the same one that returned to Venezuela. That does not leave the embassy open and free to any other parties that might presume to take up residence there, without the permission of the legitimate government of Venezuela.
A host state, the US in this case, is certainly not respecting and protecting the premises of the Venezuelan mission by attempting to forcibly usher in representatives of a group that is seeking the overthrow of the legal government of Venezuela, which is the same government still recognized by the United Nations and by three-quarters of the world’s nation-states, and most importantly by the majority of Venezuelan voters who established it. Any such takeover is an act of aggression, that would escalate the de facto war that the US has already launched against Venezuela, which includes economic warfare of the most extreme nature, designed as collective punishment against all Venezuelans (including the small minority that supports US intervention).
The US under President Trump has now established a track record of violating foreign diplomatic compounds, which encourages other nations to follow suit. Just two years ago, the US violated Russia’s diplomatic premises in the US, with unauthorized entry and searches of two facilities and the Russian consulate in San Francisco. The FBI illegally entered and searched the Russian trade mission in Washington, DC, while barring entry by Russian diplomats. The FBI also illegally entered and searched Russian diplomatic premises in New York and San Francisco. Not being a rogue state, Russia chose not to respond with the same kind of hooliganism. The absurd irony is that the same president hysterically accused by opposition media in the US of being a tool of the Kremlin, has gone out of his way to violate international law in order to harm Russia—yet another case of Americans crying “innocence” as a cover for their aggression.
Last night, Washington DC Police attempted to forcibly enter the premises of the Venezuelan mission. In response, the Embassy Protection Collective published the following open letter to the US State Department and asked that it be widely republished:
To: US State Department
Venezuelan Foreign Ministry
From: Embassy Protection Collective
Re: Exiting the Venezuelan Embassy
Date: May 13, 2019
This is the 34th day of our living in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. We are prepared to stay another 34 days, or however long is needed to resolve the embassy dispute in a peaceful way consistent with international law.
This memo is being sent to the US and Venezuela as well as members of our Collective and allies. We are encouraging people to publish this memo as a transparent process is needed to prevent the US from making a unilateral decision that could impact the security of embassies around the world and lead to military conflict.
There are two ways to resolve the issues around the Venezuelan embassy in DC, which we will explain.
Before doing so, we reiterate that our collective is one of independent people and organizations not affiliated with any government. While we are all US citizens, we are not agents of the United States. While we are here with permission of the Venezuelan government, we are not their agents or representatives.
We are here in the embassy lawfully. We are breaking no laws. We did not unlawfully enter and we are not trespassing.
1. Exiting with a Protecting Power Agreement
The exit from the embassy that best resolves issues to the benefit of the United States and Venezuela is a mutual Protecting Power Agreement. The United States wants a Protecting Power for its embassy in Caracas. Venezuela wants a Protecting Power for its embassy in DC. Such agreements are not uncommon when diplomatic relations are severed.
A Protecting Power Agreement would avoid a military conflict that could lead to war. A war in Venezuela would be catastrophic for Venezuela, the United States, and for the region. It would lead to lives lost and mass migration from the chaos and conflict of war. It would cost the United States trillions of dollars and become a quagmire involving allied countries around the world.
We are serving as interim protectors in the hope that the two nations can negotiate this resolution. If this occurs we will take the banners off the building, pack our materials, and leave voluntarily. The electricity could be turned on and we will drive out.
We suggest a video walk-through with embassy officials to show that the Embassy Protection Collective did not damage the building. The only damage to the building has been inflicted by coup supporters in the course of their unprosecuted break-ins.
2. The United States violates the Vienna Convention, makes an illegal eviction and unlawful arrests
This approach will violate international law and is fraught with risks. The United States would have to cut the chains in the front door put up by embassy staff and violate the embassy. We have put up barriers there and at other entrances to protect us from constant break-ins and threats from the trespassers whom the police are permitting outside the embassy. The police’s failure to protect the embassy and the US citizens inside has forced us to take these actions.
The Embassy Protectors will not barricade ourselves, or hide in the embassy in the event of an unlawful entry by police. We will gather together and peacefully assert our rights to remain in the building and uphold international law.
Any order to vacate based on a request by coup conspirators that lack governing authority will not be a lawful order. The coup has failed multiple times in Venezuela. The elected government is recognized by the Venezuelan courts under Venezuelan law and by the United Nations under international law. An order by the US-appointed coup plotters would not be legal.
Such an entry would put embassies around the world and in the United States at risk. We are concerned about US embassies and personnel around the world if the Vienna Convention is violated at this embassy. It would set a dangerous precedent that would likely be used against US embassies.
If an illegal eviction and unlawful arrests are made, we will hold all decision-makers in the chain of command and all officers who enforce unlawful orders accountable.
If there is a notice that we are trespassing and need to vacate the premises, please provide it to our attorney Mara Verhayden-Hilliard, copied on this memo.
We have taken care of this embassy and request a video tour of the building before any arrests.
We hope a wise and calm solution to this issue can be achieved so escalation of this conflict can avoided.
There is no need for the United States and Venezuela to be enemies. Resolving this embassy dispute diplomatically should lead to negotiations over other issues between the nations.
The Embassy Protection Collective
May 13, 2019
The Embassy Protection Collective is owed all of our many thanks and any possible support from those in or near the Washington, DC, area. Please continue to follow reports about their heroic actions.
What follows is just a small collection of articles, radio and video reports on the Embassy Protection Collective and the standoff at Venezuela’s Embassy:
- “Venezuela: Embassy Protection Collective ‘The Next Two Days Are Crucial’,” Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, RT.com, April 23.
- “Arresting Members of the Venezuela Embassy Protection Collective Would Be Unlawful,” Kevin Zeese, RT.com, April 25.
- “Venezuelan FM: Washington Must Protect Our Embassy in DC,” Sputnik News, May 2.
- “Stop the US War on Venezuela and Violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” Council on Hemispheric Affairs, May 3.
- “What is Happening at the Venezuelan Embassy is an Outrage,” Medea Benjamin, RT.com, May 8.
- “Venezuelan Embassy in DC Under Siege by Guaido’s Racist Mob,” Lauren Smith, Black Agenda Report, May 8.
- “Venezuela demands the US to comply with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” Simón García, Ministerio del Poder Popular para Relaciones Exteriores, May 9.
- “US cuts off power to Venezuelan Embassy with activists besieged inside,” RT.com, May 9.
- “‘Illegal seizure’: US police raid Venezuelan embassy in DC to evict pro-Maduro activists,” RT.com, May 13.
- “US Law Enforcement Officials Raid Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC,” Sputnik News, May 14.