Venezuela opposition leader Guevara seeks refuge in Chile ambassador's residence

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 05, 2017 6:54 AM

CARACAS/SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Prominent Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara has sought refuge in the Chilean ambassador's residence in Caracas after authorities sought to remove his congressional immunity so that he could be tried for instigating violence.

Guevara, a 31 year-old who runs the hardline Popular Will party and is also the deputy leader of congress, entered the residence on Saturday and requested protection, the Chilean government said in a statement.

"In the face of what he deemed immediate threats against his security and personal wellbeing, he has requested the protection of Chile," the statement late on Saturday read.

Critics say socialist President Nicolas Maduro has turned the OPEC nation into a dictatorship by rigging elections and jailing dissenters. His supporters say the 54-year-old successor to late leader Hugo Chavez is resisting a U.S.-backed push to oust him.

"In the face of a dictatorship that violates human rights and constantly attacks democratic institutions, the international community must continue to be firm and stand with those persecuted for their politics and all the Venezuelan people," the Popular Will party tweeted late on Saturday, thanking Chile for its help.

The Chilean residence in Caracas had already taken in five magistrates named by the opposition-run congress after they were threatened with jail time.

They then fled over the border to Colombia last month before flying to Santiago to be received by leftist Michelle Bachelet's government, which has joined a chorus of major Latin American nations in denouncing Maduro.

Venezuelan opposition COPEI party member Roberto Enriquez is still holed up in the Caracas residence.

In a symbolic parallel, several thousand Chileans, including novelist Isabel Allende, who fled Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in the 1970s found exile in then-booming Venezuela.

(Reporting by Felipe Iturrieta in Santiago and Alexandra Ulmer in Caracas; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Keith Weir)