'Don't Listen to This War Criminal!': Peace Activists Arrested at Elliott Abrams Hearing on Venezuela

“Don’t listen to this war criminal!”

So declared CodePink peace activists on Wednesday, as Trump-appointed special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams testified before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, before they were ushered out of the room and arrested.

“Venezuela needs negotiations, not a coup or military intervention,” said CodePink national co-director Ariel Gold, the first to be arrested, as she decried ongoing U.S. intervention in the Latin American country. “Don’t let Abrams take us down a path of war.”

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Abrams, a neoconservative who has been called the “Assistant Secretary of Dirty Wars” for his work in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, was selected as special envoy after the Trump administration—following reports of secret meetings with rebellious military officers about overthrowing President Nicolás Maduro—officially recognized self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaidó last month.

Since then—and despite outcry from anti-war campaigners, members of Congress, and more than 70 academics and experts—the administration has steadfastly supported Juan Guaidó, imposed sanctions on the state-owned oil company, and repeatedly threatened military action.

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“Setting up a parallel government with Juan Guaidó is illegal, irresponsible, and sets Venezuela on a path toward civil war,” CodePink activist Caroline Debnam, who was also arrested, warned in a statement. “Instead of exacerbating the tensions, the U.S. should be supporting with efforts of Mexico, Venezuela, and the Vatican to mediate the crisis.”

With her hands restrained behind her back by Capitol police on Wednesday, Gold also noted that other nations have offered to help facilitate negotiations and emphasized that “this is what we should be supporting—not a coup, not the possibility of military intervention.”

Abrams, Gold added, “is a war criminal and should not be testifying before Congress.”

Kei Pritsker, another CodePink activist on Capitol Hill Wednesday, agreed: “Look at the history of Elliot Abrams throughout Central America and the Middle East, creating wars, chaos, and mayhem on behalf of U.S. corporations. He should be tried for war crimes, not testifying in the U.S. Congress.”

Activists with the organization have also called out other members of the Trump administration for fomenting unrest and actively working to overthrow Maduro’s government. Last month, they interrupted a speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting of the Organization for American States (OAS).

Last week, CodePink protested outside the home of National Security Advisor John Bolton—another holdover from past neoconservative administrations—who recently suggested that if Maduro doesn’t step down soon, he may find himself locked away in a U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba.

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