Monday, March 09, 2015

Obama declares a state of emergency over ... Venezuela?!?

"Venezuela is Latin America's biggest exporter of crude oil and has the world's largest petroleum reserves." - Brian Ellsworth and Andrew Cawthorne, Venezuela death toll rises to 13 as protests flare Reuters 02/24/2014

President Obama just declared a state of emergency for the United States over Venezuela. Seriously.

The White House website provides the Declaration of a National Emergency with Respect to Venezuela 03/09/2015:

Pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), I hereby report that I have issued an Executive Order (the "order") declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela. [my emphasis]
The concrete measures involved consist of visa requirements for Venezuelans traveling to the US and, more significantly, sanctions directed at seven Venezuelan officials.

Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton report for Reuters in U.S. declares Venezuela a national security threat, sanctions top officials 03/09/2015:

Declaring any country a threat to national security is the first step in starting a U.S. sanctions program. The same process has been followed with countries such as Iran and Syria, U.S. officials said.

The White House said the order targeted people whose actions undermined democratic processes or institutions, had committed acts of violence or abuse of human rights, were involved in prohibiting or penalizing freedom of expression, or were government officials involved in public corruption.

"Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of U.S. financial systems," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.

"We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government's efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents. Venezuela's problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent," he added.
The also note the apparent approval of the US actions by the leading opposition figure, "Opposition leader and twice-presidential candidate Henrique Capriles told Reuters the sanctions were a problem for a corrupt elite in the Maduro government, but not ordinary Venezuelans."

Capriles is the Governor of the Venezuelan state of Miranda. He came close to defeating Maduro in the Presidential election of April 2013. He disagreed with strategy still pushed by radical-right opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and María Corina Machado to force Maduro's government out of office - to overthrow it, in other words - before the next Presidential election. But he seems to be supporting the hostile American measures against his own country.

Without splitting a lot of hairs here, I consider Obama's sanctions against Venezuela and today's declaration an a clear statement of his Administration's overt sympathy for the efforts of the radical right opposition to overthrow Venezuela's elected government of President Nicolás Maduro by extra-constitutional means.

Formal sanctions against government officials are not a normal situation in diplomatic relations. Venezuela and the other nations of Latin America will understand this as a serious attempt by the US and the Obama Administration to overthrow the Venezuelan government. And they're right to take it that way. They would be foolish not to.

Carpriles' apparent support for the American actions is another indication that in practice the US government is acting to some significant extent in political cooperation with the opposition and vice versa.

President Maduro responded in a predictably patriotic tone in this statement, Maduro: "Obama asumió personalmente la tarea de derrocar mi gobierno" 09.03.2015

Before Obama's state of emergency order was announced, the Venezuelan paper Últimas Noticias presents this report featuring a Chilean senator talking about lessons from the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende in Chile and the Veneuelan radical right's current effort to oust Maduro, titled simply Senador Alejandro Navarro 08.03.2015:


Saab asegura que funcionarios sancionados "no tienen visas ni bienes" en EEUU

Lucas Keorner reports on Obama's state of emergency in U.S. President Barack Obama Brands Venezuela a "Security Threat," Implements New Sanctions 03/09/2015:

The executive order is the latest in a series of U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela over the past few months. On February 3, the Obama administration expanded the list of Venezuelan officials barred from entering the U.S., which now includes the Chief Prosecutor Luis Ortega Diaz.

"Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of U.S. financial systems," announced White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

The U.S. has failed thus far to disclose evidence that might bolster its claims of human rights violations, leading Venezuelan and other regional leaders to condemn what they regard as the arbitrary and political character of U.S. sanctions.

While regional bodies such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) have called for dialogue, Washington has so far refused to support negotiations or to recognise the organisation's stance.

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