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Guaido-led opposition occupies Venezuelan diplomatic properties in US

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Opposition envoy Carlos Vecchio (L) and an aide replace the picture of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with a picture of self-declared "Interim President" Juan Guaido after occupying a Venezuelan diplomatic building in Washington, DC, on March 18, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Representatives of Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared "Interim President" Juan Guaido have occupied three of the country's diplomatic properties in the United States.

Guaido’s US envoy Carlos Vecchio announced the move from the office of Venezuela’s military attaché in Washington, one of the buildings occupied on Monday.

“We are taking these steps in order to preserve the assets of the Venezuelans here in this country,” Vecchio said after replacing Maduro's portrait with an image of Guaido.

The other two occupied buildings include another Venezuelan Defense Ministry edifice in Washington and a consular building in New York.

Vecchio said that the group expects to take over Venezuela’s embassy in Washington “in the days to come.”

The envoy made the comments alongside Colonel Jose Luis Silva, Venezuela’s former military attache to Washington who defected to Guaido late January.

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry responded by issuing a statement describing the move as a violation of international law on the protection of diplomatic properties. The statement demanded that the US takes "necessary measures to immediately reverse this forcible occupation.”

The move comes as the US withdrew all diplomatic personnel from Venezuela last week.

Tensions between Washington and Caracas rose after the Trump administration recognized Guaido's self-proclamation as “interim president” earlier this year. 

Maduro announced in response that he was severing diplomatic ties with Washington, expelling all US diplomats and recalling Venezuelan representatives from Washington.

The US has since repeatedly said that the "military option” is on the table to oust Maduro. Washington has also imposed economic sanctions on the country, confiscating the country's US-based state oil assets in order to channel them to Guaido.

Facing heightening tensions, Maduro formed a new military unit tasked with protecting the country's key infrastructure last week.

The measure comes after a series of suspected cases of sabotage targeted key energy installations in the country, including one which led to a recent nationwide blackout .

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