WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. supporters of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who have stayed inside that country's embassy in Washington for a month on Thursday accused the Trump administration of breaking international law by shutting off power to the diplomatic compound.
Brian Becker, national director of ANSWER Coalition, said he saw the U.S. Secret Service and Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Wednesday evening surrounding workers from the utility company Pepco as they cut power outside the embassy.
"This is a brazen violation of international law and there will be undoubtedly a cascading effect," Becker told reporters. "If the United States does this to Venezuela, what prevents other countries to do it to the United States or to other countries?"
A spokesperson for utility company PEPCO told The Associated Press that it does not discuss the status of individual customer accounts or service to individual properties out of respect for customer privacy and public safety.
The Secret Service referred any request for comment to the State Department, which then referred it to Carlos Vecchio, the ambassador to Washington designated by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
Francisco Marquez, a political adviser to Vecchio, told The Associated Press there is no conflict with international law because Vecchio is the ambassador recognized by Washington and he asked for the power to be cut.
"There is no doubt about the legitimacy of Vecchio nor the recognition from the host state," Marquez said. "The only ones without legal arguments to be inside the embassy are the activists."
Vecchio announced Wednesday evening on Twitter that the people inside the embassy will no longer have power.
"Next step: their exit," Vecchio wrote.
Ariel Gold, co-director of CODEPINK, said the power cut violates local tenancy laws because put the tenants in danger.
ANSWER Coalition and CODEPINK are among the organizations that moved into the embassy invited by Maduro as the United States and another 50 countries recognized Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president and severed ties with his government.
They see Maduro, whose government is recognized by the United Nations, as Venezuela's legitimate leader.
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK told reporters that 15 people remain inside the embassy and cannot cook because the only stove available is electric.
"They cannot cook the little bit of rice and beans they have left," Benjamin said.
But Becker, from Answer Coalition, said the activists inside are determined to stay despite of the lack of power and food supply.
"They are not giving up, they are not backing down," he said.
Luis Alonso Lugo on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/luisalonsolugo