Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cuba, Venezuela and the US

"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

Mark Weisbrot writes about an important turn at the moment in US-Venezuela relations in Obama’s Cuba legacy may run through Venezuela Aljazeera America 06/04/2015. (Spanish version, Obama y Venezuela: un paso adelante y un nuevo paso hacia atrás Últimas Noticias 7.junio.2015)

.... another issue Cuba has raised with Washington could have even more important implications for the region. It is now apparent, as I first suggested a month ago, that the Cubans made it clear to President Barack Obama that normalization of relations would be limited if Washington was unwilling to normalize relations with Venezuela. This is important because U.S. hostility toward Venezuela, especially Washington’s support for regime change there, has poisoned relations with Latin America even more than the embargo against Cuba.

Obama appears to have gotten the message. He met with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at the Summit of the Americas on April 11 and backtracked from his executive order that declared Venezuela an “extraordinary threat” to U.S. security. Obama has sent a top State Department official, Tom Shannon, to Caracas twice since April 7 to make peace. A career diplomat and an assistant secretary of state under President George W. Bush, Shannon is considered pragmatic in Washington circles. In the context of Venezuela, this means someone who favors support for groups that want to get rid of the government mainly through electoral means rather than through violence or a military coup. [my emphasis]
Venezuela, especially because of its oil resources, will remain a major target of the neocons and "Miami," the anti-Communist Cuban activists.

Obama has been willing to give them a large voice on some issues during his Administration, including regime change actions in Ukraine, Honduras and Paraguay.

Weisbrot notes:

The pattern is clear and easily understandable: There are many people in the Obama administration and Congress who do not want to normalize relations with Venezuela. (As was noted in the press, the same is true to a lesser extent for normalizing relations with Cuba. Obama kept top State Department officials in the dark for more than a year of negotiations.) So it was not surprising to see a 2,500-word Wall Street Journal article on May 18, with a far-fetched allegation that the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, was the chief of a drug cartel.
And he makes an important point in closing, "Obama has proved quite tough when he wants something. He has faced down formidable opposition, including from one of America’s most powerful lobbying groups, the Israel lobby, in order to pursue a nuclear deal with Iran. He can do the same for Latin America, if he so chooses."

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