Venezuela opposition politician Freddy Guevara spends year in Chilean embassy

Chilean government continues to grant Venezuelan politician protection

CARACAS, Venezuela – Freddy Guevara, the 32-year-old former vice-president of Venezuela's National Assembly, has spent a year holed up in the Chilean embassy in Caracas.

The high security outside of the embassy is a sign of the tense relations that continue between the two countries, as the Chilean government continues to offer protection to one of President Nicolas Maduro's most prominent critics.  

"Venezuela is an atypical country, because in other situations it would be different," Guevara's father, Freddy Guevara Sr., said in Spanish. "He remains calm, he can go outside to exercise, have meetings and study." 

Guevara's supporters gathered at the embassy on Monday to mark the anniversary of the day he sought refuge. They were demanding an end to his persecution. 

"Freddie Guevara is not a terrorist, he is a hero," said Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo Lopez, a Venezuelan politician being held under house arrest. "Nicolas Maduro is not a president, he is a dictator."  

After Maduro was elected to replace the late Hugo Chavez in 2013, human rights activists say Maduro's persecution of his critics has been brutal and relentless. Last year, Maduro tightened his grip to power with a Constituent Assembly that replaced the National Assembly. 

With loyalists in the Supreme Court, the Constituent Assembly issued a new "anti-hate law" that is being used to arrest anyone who speaks against Maduro. Any "hate speech" on social media in Venezuela is punishable with up to 20 years in prison. 

"They're very clever in the way they persecute, the way they try to silence the opposition, and they always go one by one," said Juan Andres Mejia, an opposition lawmaker. 

In 2017, Guevara protested the end of Radio Caracas Television and boycotted an election that he believed was designed to keep socialists in power. As a consequence, prosecutors accused him of instigating violence.

The Supreme Court disqualified his parliamentary immunity Nov. 3, 2017. Two days later, he sought refuge in the official residence of the Chilean ambassador in Caracas. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, a political conservative and self-made billionaire, took office in March. He spoke against Maduro at the United Nations. 

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