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Chile Says Will Give Venezuelan Politician Asylum if Requested

Demonstrators are seen amidst tear gas fired by security forces during an opposition rally in Caracas, Venezuela April 6, 2017.
Demonstrators are seen amidst tear gas fired by security forces during an opposition rally in Caracas, Venezuela April 6, 2017.

The Chilean government will grant asylum to a Venezuelan opposition politician who is currently in its ambassador's residence in Caracas if he asks for it, Chile's foreign minister said on Thursday.

Venezuelan opposition COPEI party members Roberto Enriquez and Eduardo Vetancourt on Wednesday walked into the Chilean ambassador's residence in Caracas and asked for protection from the government.

Earlier in the week, vice president of the ruling Socialist Party, Diosdado Cabello, accused the pair of conspiring to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. COPEI said the two had been arrested by military intelligence agents under accusations of "rebellion" and "treason."

"If he asks for political asylum, we'll give it to him... It's a humanitarian situation," Chilean foreign minister, Heraldo Munoz, said in a recorded statement to journalists.

It was not immediately clear if he was referring to Enriquez, Vetancourt, or both.

In a controversial move last week, Venezuela's Supreme Court ruled that it was assuming functions of the opposition-led National Assembly, a move that was partially reversed.

Critics viewed the ruling as a step toward dictatorship by Maduro's Socialist Party, which has ruled for 18 years, and the court ruling brought unusually strong condemnation from leaders throughout Latin America.

On Wednesday, Cabello transmitted, via a weekly television program he hosts, a tape of alleged conversations between Vetancourt and an undercover intelligence agent. In the tape, Vetancourt is heard talking of possible armed attacks in Caracas that would precipitate a U.S. invasion.

According to the recording, which has not been verified by any independent party, the plot would have had the blessing of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.

Opposition politicians and activists in Venezuela say the Maduro government frequently fabricates evidence in order to jail opponents for political reasons, while the government claims it is under constant attack from imperialist foes.

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