WASHINGTON – The sun had just dipped below the horizon Wednesday evening when the lights flicked off inside the Venezuelan embassy in Washington.
Waves of cheers rolled up and down the ordinarily quiet street in the elite Georgetown neighborhood at the center of an intensifying standoff between backers of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and left-wing activists who oppose U.S. intervention and support President Nicolás Maduro.
With no electricity, the activists who have been living inside the building adjusted to the latest challenge in their month-long occupation of the embassy. Organizers with Code Pink, a left-leaning organization known for its theatrical and provocative protests, said the utility bills had been paid in full by the building’s owners: the Maduro-led Venezuelan government.
The group has been inside the embassy since April 10 at the invitation of Maduro government officials. About two weeks into Code Pink’s residency, Venezuelan and Venezuelan-American protesters began to gather outside. They have not left since.
The embassy, a four-story brick building on a quiet side street near the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, has become the site of a proxy power struggle that mirrors the international fight over the future of Venezuela.
Activists inside the building Thursday said they had no running water or electricity, although a spokesman for D.C. Water said water had not been shut off to the property. The utility Pepco declined to comment on why the electricity apparently was cut.
“Out of respect for customer privacy and public safety and in accordance with Public Service Commission regulations, Pepco does not discuss the status of individual customer accounts or service to individual properties,” the company said in a statement. “This privacy protocol covers all Pepco customers including residential, commercial and industrial and government segments.”
The lights went out Wednesday night after D.C. police closed off 30th Street NW to allow several neon-shirted men down a manhole in the middle of the street.
Pro-Guaidó protesters celebrated the irony of a blackout at the Venezuelan embassy – a circumstance that has become a common occurrence in the South American country.
“It is totally ILLEGAL and dangerous for the U.S. to cut off water and electricity, deny access to food, to those of us residing lawfully inside the embassy building as guests of the Venezuelan government,” Code Pink member Paki Wieland said in a statement. “We are the legal tenants of this embassy with permission from the Venezuelan government.”
Several law enforcement agencies, including the Secret Service, have been stationed outside the embassy around the clock to secure the building and keep the peace, Secret Service officials have said.
Code Pink activists accuse the Venezuelan protesters of slinging racist and sexist insults at them during confrontations outside the embassy. They also have accused several pro-Guaidó demonstrators of pushing or behaving violently.
Pro-Guaidó protesters say Code Pink supporters pushed a pregnant woman who was participating in a human chain around the embassy – to keep deliveries of food from reaching the embassy doors – and held a news conference Wednesday to detail an alleged attack on a 58-year-old demonstrator who sought treatment at a hospital for her injuries. Others say they have been subject to cyberbullying by Code Pink supporters.
“This was an attack without warning and without provocation,” said Robert Nasser, a member of Lucha Democratica. “We are peaceful. We are nonviolent.”https://www.lmtonline.com/news/article/Venezuelan-embassy-goes-dark-as-standoff-13832785.php