Italy’s foreign minister confirmed Friday that Americo De Grazia, a member of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, has sought protection inside the residence of the Italian ambassador in Carcass.
The ministry said De Grazia, who is of Italian origin, was legitimately elected to the assembly and, despite enjoying parliamentary immunity, has been the subject of judicial proceedings that would result in his arrest.
The lawmaker thanked Italy in a tweet, although he did not confirm he was inside.
At least 10 opposition lawmakers were stripped of immunity earlier this week after the Supreme Court said they should be investigated for conspiracy, rebellion, and treason.
Mariela Magallanes is also inside the Italian embassy, while her colleague Richard Blanco has gone to the Argentina Embassy in Caracas.
Their moves echo those made by 1970s dissidents scrambling for protection under the flags of other countries during the previous era of Latin American dictatorships.
Blanco told local media that he went to the Argentina embassy after the arrest of Edgar Zambrano, the vice-president of the National Assembly.
Zambrano, 63, was leaving his Democratic Action Party’s headquarters Wednesday when he was surprised by a commando unit from the feared SEBIN intelligence agency. The unit member surrounded his vehicle.
About 30 minutes later, the vehicle was towed away with Zambrano still inside.
It was the latest move in a protracted, increasingly murky struggle between the two camps vying for power and the support of the military.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido portrayed the arrest and the targeting of lawmakers as acts of desperation by a government whose leaders don’t know who to trust.
A total of 29 National Assembly members, or 25% of parliamentarians who oppose the government, have been persecuted by the pro-Maduro supreme court, according to Guaidó.
The U.S.-recognized president of Venezuela, who called for new nationwide protests on Saturday, reiterated that he was open to accepting a military intervention by the United States to help manage the political emergency in his country.
“If the Americans were to propose a military intervention I would probably accept it,” he told Italian daily newspaper La Stampa.
The United States has said Russia-backed Nicolas Maduro was elected illegitimately and that Guaido should lead Venezuelans to free elections after years of turmoil. Maduro describes Guaido as a collaborator in a U.S.-engineered coup plot, but has so far not moved to actually detain him.
The U.S. and European and Latin American countries that support Venezuela’s opposition condemned the arrest of Zambrano, saying his parliamentary immunity was illegally lifted.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the arrest of Zambrano “is an unacceptable and illegal act that is yet another reflection of the repression of the former Maduro regime.”
“This assault on the National Assembly should serve as a clarion call to the region and the world that the dictatorship is not interested in constitutional solutions to the Venezuelan people’s problems,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Opposition activist Leopoldo López entered the home of the Spanish ambassador after he joined Guaido in the failed attempt to topple Maduro. López was detained for anti-government protests in 2014 and had been under house arrest for two years before he was freed.
On Thursday, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, a former spy chief who became a government critic, was also transferred by military police to a maximum-security cell at a Caracas military base, his political movement said. Rodríguez Torres was arrested a year ago.