One of Venezuela's most prominent opposition leaders has sought refuge in the Chilean ambassador's residence after being targeted for arrest by the Supreme Court.
Chile's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had welcomed congressman Freddy Guevara as a guest, in line with Chile's humanitarian tradition. He entered the ambassador's residence in Caracas late Saturday with his girlfriend, ending more than 24 hours of suspense in which he went into hiding and vehicles belonging to the Sebin intelligence police had surrounded his residence, according to a AP report.
On Friday, the government-stacked high court barred Guevara from leaving the country and requested the pro-government Constitutional Assembly strip his immunity from prosecution. The court said Guevara is suspected of instigating unrest and other crimes during months of anti-government protests.
By law, the opposition-controlled National Assembly is charged with determining whether a legislator's constitutional immunity should be lifted. But the court has instead referred the case to the Constitutional Assembly, which has been given virtually unlimited powers.
Guevara, vice president of the congress, was at the forefront of opposition protests that mobilised hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans frustrated with their nation's spiral into political and economic crisis.
His 'Popular Will' party called the accusations "inexistent crimes invented by the dictatorship." On Saturday, 12 Western Hemisphere governments — including Mexico, Brazil and Canada — issued a joint statement saying the targeting of Guevara by the high court was a "new blow to the rule of law and separation of powers in Venezuela."
There was no immediate reaction from the government.