Venezuelan opposition leader seeks refuge at Chilean embassy

Venezuelan opposition leader seeks refuge at Chilean embassy

SANTIAGO – Agence France-Presse
Venezuelan opposition leader seeks refuge at Chilean embassy

A top Venezuelan opposition lawmaker on Nov. 4 requested Chile’s protection after Venezuela’s high court announced he would be prosecuted on charges punishable by a decade in prison.

Freddy Guevara, the opposition-stacked National Assembly’s number two official, sought refuge at Chile’s embassy in Caracas after the pro-government dominated Supreme Court’s announcement Nov. 3.

Chile’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Guevara, 31, was received at the residence of its ambassador “as a guest,” and that he “had requested the protection of Chile” based on “what he considers to be imminent threats to his security and personal integrity.”

The prominent opposition leader became the sixth Venezuelan to seek protection at the embassy in under three months, including four judges who are already protected in Chile and a fifth who has remained at the diplomatic residence since April.

Venezuela’s top court on Nov. 3 announced the suspension of Guevara’s immunity to enable him to be tried for crimes of “association, persistent public instigation and the use of an adolescent to commit crimes,” without specifying when the allegations date from.

The pro-government constitutional assembly -- which governs crisis-stricken Venezuela with absolute power -- is meanwhile investigating the lawmaker in connection with mass protests against the embattled President Nicolas Maduro that left 125 dead between April and July.

Spain has rejected the measures taken against Guevara, while the so-called Lima Group -- comprised of 12 American states -- described it as “a new attack against the rule of law and the division of powers in Venezuela.”