Mon, 25 Jan 2021

Rival Staffs Vie for Control of Venezuelan Embassy in Brazil

Voice of America
14 Nov 2019, 07:05 GMT+10

The opposition backed ambassador's staff attempted to move in to the Venezuelan embassy in Brazil on Wednesday as staff loyal to the Maduro government resisted the change.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido's appointed ambassador, Teresa Belandria, said in a statement that staff members at the embassy "voluntarily" opened its doors early Wednesday to officials working for her.

"Upon entering the headquarters, we could verify that a group of officials was living in the official residence," said Belandria, who has not moved in to the embassy.

"The violent Right's matrix about desertions is absolutely false," said Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Twitter. A video posted to Arreaza's Twitter showed Venezuela's Charge d'affaires and staff members disputing Belandria's claim.

A Brazilian foreign ministry representative was inside the embassy in an attempt to end the impasse.

Brazilian military police surrounded the embassy as demonstrators on both sides gathered to support the Maduro government and opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Dozens of supporters of Brazil's left-wing Workers Party organized outside the embassy. According to French news agency AFP, the demonstrators yelled "Viva Maduro," "Drug dealer Guaido" and "Free Lula," referencing the Brazilian leftist released from jail on Friday.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro accepted Belandria's credentials as ambassador of Venezuela in June 2019.

Brazil is one of more than 50 countries that recognize the Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido as the acting president after rejecting Maduro's 2018 re-election as rigged.

Maduro has emptied the embassies and consulates of countries that recognize his rival. Despite recalling diplomats, the governments have fought over controlling the properties.

Earlier in May, American police forcibly removed protesters that were occupying the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, to allow pro-Guaido diplomats to enter.

The protesters had been invited by the pro-Maduro diplomats before President Maduro recalled them from the country. The protesters controlled the embassy for about a month.

The embassy drama comes at a time Brazil must balance its relationships with China and Russia, which support Maduro, and the U.S. President Donald Trump, who supports Guaido.

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