Mexico protecting Venezuelan opposition lawmaker

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico diplomatic residence in Venezuela's capital took in a member of that country's opposition-controlled congress, the foreign affairs ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said giving protection to National Assembly member Franco Manuel Casella Lovaton did not indicate a change in Mexico's stance of not taking sides in the political crisis in Venezuela.

Casella is president of the congress subcommittee on human rights and a member of opposition leader Juan Guaidó's Popular Will party. Guaidó is leading the effort to remove President Nicolás Maduro, with the backing of the United States and other countries.

But Mexico is not one of them.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has repeatedly stressed that Mexico will maintain a strict non-intervention policy in Venezuela and elsewhere. However, facing pressure at home and abroad, Mexico has shown signs recently of easing that position, particularly when Maduro makes more aggressive moves.

Venezuelan security forces surrounded the congress Tuesday, blocking access to the building to prevent a scheduled debate.

By taking Casella in, Mexico said, it is "reiterating its commitment to respect, protect and promote human rights" regardless of a person's political affiliation. It also emphasized its support for the parliamentary immunity of National Assembly members in Venezuela.

Venezuela's government-allied courts have lifted the immunity for some legislators and opened investigations against them.

Last week, Mexico expressed concern over human rights in Venezuela, particularly the right to due process and the immunity from prosecution given to elected lawmakers. It cited lawmaker Edgar Zambrano, the congress' No. 2 leader, who was arrested by a commando unit from Venezuela's SEBIN intelligence agency for alleged treason.

That followed an opposition-led call for a military uprising that failed to materialize against Maduro on April 30.

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