Venezuelan opposition leader Guevara takes refuge in Chilean embassy

SANTIAGO – This weekend, a top Venezuelan opposition lawmaker requested Chile’s protection after Venezuela’s high court announced he would be prosecuted on charges punishable by a decade in prison.

Freddy Guevara, vice president of the congress, sought refuge at Chile’s embassy in Caracas a day after the pro-government dominated Supreme Court’s announcement Friday.

Guevara, 31, was at the forefront of opposition protests that mobilized 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 Maduro government.

Five Venezuelan judges get asylum in Chile

Chile’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Guevara was received at the residence of its ambassador “as a guest,” and that he “had requested the protection of Chile” based on “what he considers to be imminent threats to his security and personal integrity.”

The prominent opposition leader became the sixth Venezuelan to seek protection at the embassy in under three months, including four judges who are already protected in Chile and a fifth who has remained at the diplomatic residence since April.