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Chile willing to grant asylum to Venezuelan opposition lawmaker

View of the facade of the residence of Chilean ambassador to Caracas on November 5, 2017. The opposition deputy and vice president of the National Assembly, Freddy Guevara, asked on the eve for political refuge in the Embassy of Chile in Caracas, after the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) stripped him of immunity and announced that he would be prosecuted for crimes which sentences reach up to 10 years in prison. / AFP PHOTO / FEDERICO PARRA

Chile is prepared to grant political asylum to a Venezuelan opposition lawmaker who sought refuge at its embassy in Caracas claiming that his safety was in danger, the foreign minister said Monday.

Venezuela’s government is locked in a vicious political fight with the opposition, which dismisses President Nicolas Maduro as a leftist dictator who has gutted the oil-rich and economically ailing country’s democracy.

Freddy Guevara, the opposition-held National Assembly’s number two official, sought refuge at Chile’s embassy in Caracas on Saturday, a day after the pro-government Supreme Court stripped him of his immunity and said he would be prosecuted on charges punishable by a decade in prison.

Chile has taken in Guevara as a guest “for humanitarian reasons and in light of international law,” Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz told reporters.

And Chile is willing to grant the 31-year-old political asylum, but he has not requested it so far, the minister said.

The prominent opposition leader is one of several Venezuelans who have sought protection at the embassy in recent months.

They include four judges who sought protection at Chile’s embassy in Caracas, escaped to Colombia and then made their way to Santiago, Chile, where they asked for political asylum.

On Friday, Venezuela’s top court announced the suspension of Guevara’s immunity to enable him to be tried for crimes of “association, persistent public instigation and the use of an adolescent to commit crimes,” without specifying the date of the alleged misdeeds.

The country’s Constituent Assembly, which governs crisis-stricken Venezuela with absolute power and replaced the congress where Guevara had a seat, summoned him “urgently” for a meeting on whether to confirm lifting his immunity.

The pro-government Constituent Assembly is investigating the lawmaker in connection with mass protests against the embattled Maduro that left 125 dead between April and July.



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