“Now the Venezuelans have come,” said Osvaldo Burgos, standing with his wife Pamela in front of the besieged Embassy of Venezuela on 30th Street in Georgetown, next to the historic C&O Canal, on Wednesday, May 1. Several dozen Venezuelans were waving the country’s star-bedecked yellow, blue and red flag.
“We have come to stand in support of President Juan Guaidó, who is the legitimate president of Venezuela after the elections of 2018 were found to be fraudulent and invalid,” stated Pamela. The National Assembly had recognized the Assembly leader to be president, as the constitution directs. Since then, some 50 countries, including the U.S., and the United Nations have recognized his presidency.
While the Venezuelans stood in front of the building, across the street stood a couple of dozen U.S. citizens waving banners stating “Stop the Coup” and the like. About 50 of them had been occupying the building for over a week in support of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro; they claim the election was legal and valid. So does Russia, Cuba and the Organization of American States.
The crowds in front of the embassy reflected the fervor of those in Venezuela on May 1, a date that for decades has celebrated workers and laborers. On that day, Guaidó had called for crowds to demand that Maduro step down. There was talk of a waiting plane at the airport runway in Caracas and of Maduro being convinced by Cubans and Russians — who recognized his government — to stay put.
Meanwhile, the crowds in front of the embassy were getting noisy and testy. Some expected a new ambassador appointed by Guaidó to come take official command of the building. “We are protecting the embassy for the Venezuelan people against an invasion by the United States State Department and the Secret Service,” Kevin Zeese, a spokesperson for the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective, told The Georgetowner.
Some 20 uniformed Secret Service officers stood around the perimeter of the embassy. “I’ve seen numerous examples of human rights violations right in front of them and they’re not doing anything,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund on Florida Avenue. “We’re sending a letter to the Secret Service and D.C. chief of police holding them accountable.”
The singing of the protestors was drowned out by loud continuous recorded sirens, along with bullhorn-wielding speakers from both sides, who engaged in a shouting match at the back of the embassy around noon. A dozen or so “protectors,” members of the women-led grassroots organization CODEPINK, leaned out of embassy windows. Another dozen or so Venezuelans wrapped flags around their shoulders and talked earnestly to some 35 members of the media with cameras and notebooks, who scurried between the two groups.
At press time, nothing was yet decided — either in Caracas or on Georgetown’s 30th Street.