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Police arrest activists squatting in Venezuelan Embassy

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Four demonstrators who have been staging a protest inside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington for weeks were arrested Thursday, signaling a possible resolution to the extended stand-off.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, told The Associated Press that police entered the embassy early Thursday morning.

A State Department spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that law enforcement personnel "arrested and removed four trespassers" from the embassy.

Around noon, a group of police cars drove away from the building. A video posted on social media by Code Pink showed Adrienne Pine, one of the four protesters, in the back of the police car, saying "this is an illegal order that (the police) are following."

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer for the activists, said she was still trying to determine what criminal charges they may be facing.

The protesters consider Nicolás Maduro to be the legitimate Venezuelan president. But the U.S. and more than 50 other countries say Maduro's recent reelection was fraudulent and are backing congressional leader Juan Guaidó's claim to the presidency.

Guaidó's newly named ambassador had requested the help of U.S. authorities in clearing the building. Shortly after the arrests, Guaidó tweeted, "The process of recovery of our embassies around the world has started.

The protest started more than a month ago with at least 30 activists staying at the embassy, but their numbers gradually dwindled. The building has been without power since last week and a crowd of Guaidó supporters has frequently gathered to heckle the protesters from the street.

The ambassador, Carlos Vecchio, announced plans to go to the embassy Thursday evening to address the crowds of Venezuelan diaspora gathered there.

___

Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Matt Lee contributed to this report.

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