Rome, May 11 (IANS/AKI) Americo De Grazia, an member of Venezuela’s National Assembly who is facing arrest and prosecution, was given refuge at Italy’s Embassy in Caracas, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday.
“Regardless of parliamentary immunity, a judicial proceeding has been initiated against De Grazia which could lead to his arrest,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.
“The Embassy operates in full compliance with diplomatic conventions,” it added.
De Grazia, who is of Italian origin, is among 10 lawmakers stripped of immunity this week after Venezuela’s Supreme Court said they should be investigated for conspiracy, rebellion and treason.
Italy’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that Mariela Magellanes, another of the 10 lawmakers, who is married to an Italian and has applied for citizenship, had come to their embassy in Caracas and would “be extended all possible protection and hospitality”.
The National Constituent Assembly – a body convened by Venezuela’s leftist President Nicolas Maduro and made up exclusively of his supporters – lifted the parliamentary immunity of the National Assembly lawmakers on the orders of the Supreme Court.
The move followed a failed attempt last week by the head of the opposition-held National Assembly, Juan Guaido to spark a military rebellion against Maduro, which led to the arrest on Wednesday of Guaido’s deputy Edgar Zambrano.
Guaido invoked the constitution to declare himself interim President in January, arguing that Maduro’s contested re-election last year was illegitimate. Over 50 countries including the US have recognised Guaido.
Maduro, who has retained the support of the Venezuelan military and allies abroad including Russia and China, has denounced Guaido’s move as a US-backed coup bid.
The Latin American nation has been caught in a downward spiral for years with growing political discontent further fuelled by skyrocketing hyperinflation, power cuts and shortages of food and medicine.
Malnutrition and disease have spread in Venezuela, which has endured the deepest economic depression in modern history among countries not at war and where some 5,500 people are fleeing the country each day.
Italy is member of a European Union led contact group set up in January as part of diplomatic efforts to end the crisis in Venezuela.