Venezuela’s US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido is said to have sought refuge at the French embassy in the Latin American country’s capital, Caracas.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza broke the news during a local radio interview on Thursday, when he was asked by a journalist about Guaido’s supposed presence at the French embassy and another leading opposition figure, Leopoldo Lopez, at the Spanish ambassador’s residence, where he has remained for more than a year following attempts to incite a military uprising against the government in Caracas.
“We cannot enter the premises of any country’s embassy whatsoever, in this case Spain or France,” Arreaza said, adding that an arrest by force therefore “is not possible.”
“We hope that these governments will change their mind… and deliver those who wish to escape Venezuelan justice,” Arreaza continued.
Describing the situation as “deeply irregular,” the Venezuelan foreign minister underlined that, “it is a shame for Spain’s diplomacy, it is a shame for France’s diplomacy what has happened and it will take its toll very, very soon.”
France and Spain are among the countries that recognize Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela after accusing Maduro of vote-rigging in his re-election in 2018.
Arreaza’s comments were made three days after Maduro had hinted that the opposition figure was “hiding” at a diplomatic mission.
Maduro and his administration in Caracas have previously called Guaido, who was behind an abortive coup against the Venezuelan leader in 2019, a “fugitive from justice.”
Guaido pushed Venezuela into political turmoil after he unilaterally declared himself “interim president” of the country in January last year, and with Washington’s assistance and help from a small number of rogue soldiers, later launched a botched putsch against the elected government. There was also an attempt at assassinating Maduro with a drone in 2018.
Guaido’s self-proclamation and his coup received backing from the US administration.
Washington has imposed several rounds of crippling sanctions against the oil-rich South American country aimed at ousting Maduro and replacing him with Guaido.
The sanctions, which include the illegal confiscation of Venezuelan assets abroad and an economic blockade, have caused enormous suffering for millions of people in the country.
In yet another show of animosity toward the government in Caracas, a group of US-backed mercenaries attempted to intrude into the northern Venezuelan state of La Guaira on speedboats last month, but the country’s military foiled the attack, killing eight of the armed men and arresting several others.
One of the two US citizens arrested during the marine incursion said in a public interrogation on Venezuelan state TV that the purpose of the military operation had been to seize an airport in Caracas, kidnap Maduro, and take him to the US.
The contract under which the mercenaries carried out the attack bore Guaido’s signature as well as those of other opposition figures.