A pro Nicolas Maduro supporter Adrienne Pine is arrested, during the eviction of Maduro's supporters from the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, Thursday, May 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Arrests at Venezuelan Embassy might signal end of standoff

May 16, 2019 - 3:44 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four demonstrators who had staged a protest inside the Venezuelan Embassy for weeks were arrested Thursday, signaling a possible resolution to the extended standoff.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, told The Associated Press that police entered the embassy early in the morning. A State Department spokesman said authorities arrested and removed four people from the embassy.

About noon, a group of police cars drove away from the building. A video posted on social media by Code Pink showed Adrienne Pine, one of the four protesters, in the back of the police car, saying "this is an illegal order that (the police) are following."

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer for the activists, said in a statement that they were charged with interference with certain protective functions.

The protesters consider Nicolás Maduro to be the legitimate Venezuelan president. But the United States and more than 50 other countries say Maduro's recent reelection was fraudulent and are backing congressional leader Juan Guaidó's claim to the presidency.

Guaidó's newly named ambassador had requested the help of U.S. authorities in clearing the building. Shortly after the arrests, Guaidó tweeted, "The process of recovery of our embassies around the world has started.

The protest started more than a month ago with at least 30 activists staying at the embassy, but their numbers gradually dwindled. The building has been without power since last week and a crowd of Guaidó supporters has frequently gathered to heckle the protesters from the street.

The Maduro government criticized the law enforcement action, with Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeting that the United States was violating its international obligations and the right of the activists who had "protected" the embassy with "our authorization."

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Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Matthew Lee in Washington, and Jorge Rueda in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.

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Follow Luis Alonso Lugo on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/luisalonsolugo

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