It was supposed to be a day of triumph for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and his forces in Washington DC. In Caracas, the opposition had launched “Operacion Libertad,” a coup attempt that promised to flip high level figures in the military and Maduro’s inner circle and deliver Miraflores Palace to Guaido. And in Washington, self-declared ambassador Carlos Vecchio was poised to take control of Venezuela’s embassy from Maduro’s representatives.
But by the end of the Mayday holiday, Guaido’s plot had been resoundingly defeated, while Vecchio was seen fleeing the embassy after his speech before 50 or so fanatical right-wing supporters was overwhelmed by a group of anti-coup protesters both inside and outside the embassy. It was a humiliating defeat for a US-backed opposition that has not achieved a single concrete victory since launching its coup attempt over 75 days ago.
For over a week, a group of US citizens calling itself the “Embassy Protection Collective” has stymied the opposition’s plans to seize the embassy, denying its leadership the veneer of legitimacy it has been desperately seeking. Members of the collective moved into the embassy at the invitation of its official owners in the Venezuelan government, and have maintained a round-the-clock presence to prevent a growing mob of opposition activists from occupying the grounds.
On April 30, the pro-coup mob outside turned violent, physically assaulting embassy protectors, and hurling racist, sexist and homophobic abuse at others. The following day, an opposition activist broke into the embassy and ransacked a room before he was removed by Secret Service officers. Hours later, a small band of opposition members destroyed security cameras attached to the embassy. The Secret Service has done nothing so far to prevent or punish criminal acts that violate DC’s civil code and Article 22 of the Vienna Conventions on the protection of diplomatic facilities.
At 5 PM on May 1, Vecchio arrived with a gaggle of carefully coiffed supporters in formal wear, presenting the image of a team of professionals ready to get to work. In expectation of the takeover, they brought an official-looking placard and equipment to affix it to the embassy’s front door.
But the changing of the guard would never take place. As soon as Vecchio launched into what was supposed to be a victory speech, he was drowned out by chanting from inside the embassy, and from across the street, where anti-coup protesters had filled the sidewalk.
Minutes after his abbreviated speech concluded, Vecchio bolted from the rally and fled down a sidewalk, with Secret Service agents and opposition vigilantes pushing reporters away. His hurried exit from the scene marked the failure of an obviously ill-conceived publicity stunt.
After Vecchio fled the scene, the remains of the opposition mob returned to its favorite practices: hurling racist and sexist invective and death threats at the embassy protectors, vandalizing the embassy, and palling around with Secret Service officers.
Inside the embassy, the embassy protectors celebrated another success. They had held off a takeover attempt on a momentous day, while Guaido’s coup flopped in Caracas.
“Today was a major victory for the Embassy Protection Collective,” Kevin Zeese, an organizer of the embassy action, told The Grayzone. “Vecchio was embarrassed coming to ‘his’ embassy and being shouted down. He was unable to demand that we leave the embassy. Now we can say that the US coup is failing even in the United States.”
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