Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s ambassador to Washington said Monday he had taken control of three Venezuelan diplomatic properties in the United States.
Carlos Vecchio, appointed by self-declared president Guaido, entered two Venezuelan military buildings in Washington -- while advisory minister Gustavo Marcano took control of the consulate in New York.
“We are recovering and protecting the assets of the Venezuelan people to stop the usurper regime from continuing to steal from and destroy them as it has in the last 20 years,” Vecchio said.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who is loyal to embattled President Nicolas Maduro, denounced the “forced and illegal occupation.”
In a statement on Twitter, the Venezuelan government branded the action an “extremely serious violation of the US government’s international obligations,” and threatened to take reciprocal action in Venezuela.
The ambassador said that in the coming days, his mission would take possession of the Venezuelan embassy, although its accounts are frozen.
A source close to Vecchio said the opposition-controlled National Assembly would have to approve their use.
A US State Department spokesman confirmed that President Donald Trump’s administration -- which recognizes Guaido’s authority along with some 50 other countries -- backed the move.
“This is a welcome development for our bilateral relations with Venezuela... US policy is to support democracy in Venezuela, interim President Guaido and the National Assembly, which is the only democratically elected institution in the country,” the spokesman told AFP.
Vecchio added that the Venezuela’s military attache in Washington, Colonel Jose Luis Silva Silva, would remain in his post.
Silva Silva represented Maduro until January 26, when he took advantage of Guaido’s offer of amnesty for military personnel who reject Maduro’s socialist government.