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Venezuelan Opposition Leader Seeks Refuge in Chilean Embassy

FILE - Freddy Guevara, the Venezuelan National Assembly's first vice president, speaks at a news conference at the parliament's offices in Caracas, Aug. 19, 2017.

A prominent Venezuelan lawmaker has sought refuge in the Embassy of Chile in Caracas, fearing arrest on Supreme Court charges of instigating violence.

The Chilean Foreign Ministry confirmed Saturday it had welcomed Freddy Guevara, the No. 2 official in Venezuela’s opposition-dominated National Assembly.

Guevara’s Popular Will party called the accusations “nonexistent crimes invented by the dictatorship.''

Twelve Western Hemisphere governments, including Mexico, Brazil and Canada, issued a joint statement Saturday, saying the high court's targeting of Guevara was a "new blow to the rule of law and separation of powers in Venezuela.''

On Friday, the pro-government Supreme Court barred Guevara from leaving the country and requested that the powerful pro-government Constitutional Assembly strip his immunity from prosecution. That 545-member assembly of Maduro supporters has superseded much of the National Assembly's authority.

By law, the 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.

Guevara, the National Assembly's vice president, was at the forefront of opposition protests from April through July that mobilized hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans frustrated with their country’s political and economic crisis.