Obama Imposes Military End-Uses Sanctions Against Venezuela

The only risk that Venezuela really imposes on the US is the threat of a good example. And this is precisely why Venezuela is being targeted by the US government for regime change.


The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is not some paranoid figment of the imagination by civil liberation anti-corporatists, but an agency in the US Department of Commerce. Its tagline “where industry and security intersect” is a perfect metaphor for the post 9-11 corporate security state in the US.

On November 7, the BIS imposed license requirements for exports to Venezuela of certain items “complementing” an existing US arms embargo that has been in effect since 2006. Along with China and Russia, Venezuela is now added to the list of countries subject to these military end-use and end-user restrictions, which limit trade to Venezuela for items on the exhaustive Commerce Control List (CCL) that could have possible military reuse value.

Whether the impact of the rule will be more symbolic than practical remains to be seen, depending how the US Commerce Department issues the required licenses. But it could cripple Venezuela’s access to US-made “sensitive goods and technologies” that have critical civilian uses but are deemed potentially military. For example, the CCL list includes computers with finger print reading capabilities such as those currently used to verify registered voters in Venezuela.

Rule Making by US Executive Dictate

US President Obama’s authority to impose these most recent restrictions on Venezuela comes under the Export Administration Act, which expired in 2001. No problem. The authority of this act has been extended without any Congressional vote by executive order, most recently by Obama in August of this year.

In order to provide a façade of Congressional oversight, Congress was notified of the new rule only a day in advance. This executive dictate was accomplished without any public debate or even forewarning.

Normally such rulemaking by law requires “the opportunity for public comment and a delay in effective date.”  But as the Federal Register notification explained, the US executive handily circumvented the Administrative Procedure Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act by invoking military matters,

Regime Change

The purpose of this military end-use rule and other such actions is the US governmental policy of “regime change” of the democratically elected government of Venezuela. The excuse used in the rule notification by the US government is “the Venezuelan military’s violent repression of the Venezuelan people.”

The unrest in Venezuela, starting in February and now quiet, was largely precipitated by the failure of the opposition to win in the December 2013 municipal elections. After a close presidential election in April 2013, the opposition had touted the December 2013 elections as a plebiscite on the presidency of Nicolás Maduro.  Instead, the US-backed opposition was trounced with the government party sweeping over 70% of the municipalities.

The more violent elements in the opposition then took advantage of civil concerns regarding inflation, shortages of consumer goods, and public safety. The opposition barricaded streets (guarimbas), attacked government buildings, schools, and hospitals, and decried the government’s handling of the problems while actually exacerbating them.

The intention of the guarimbas was to achieve by violence what the US-backed opposition within Venezuela could not achieve democratically – regime change. In the reverse logic of Washington doublespeak, the rule notification reproaches “the Venezuelan military (for) undermine(ing) democratic processes and institutions.”

The violence in Venezuela was largely confined to a limited number of wealthy and middle-class neighborhoods, resulting in over 40 killed most of whom were by-standers, government supporters, and government security personnel. The Venezuelan government policy was to avoid violence. As the Venezuelan government freely admitted, some of its security personnel did overreact and those individuals have been arrested.

Threat of a Good Example

In the rule notification, the US accused Venezuela of failure to “cooperate in areas of counterterrorism.” This brings to mind the attempt by the Cuban government to cooperate in good faith with the US by providing evidence of plots by US-based terrorists against Cuba. The US government responded by jailing the Cuban 5, who collected the evidence, while allowing the real terrorists to continue to operate freely.

Venezuela was already on the top six list of the US National Security Agency’s “enduring targets.”  Further on July 30th of this year, visa restrictions were imposed against Venezuelan officials by executive fiat through the US State Department. The list of banned officials, however, has not been made public.

In a typical inversion of reality, the rule notification claims that Venezuela “constitute(s) an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” Yet Venezuela is subject to massive US military presence under Plan Colombia on its western flank, US military bases to the east on the Dutch colonial islands of Aruba and Curacao, and the US Fifth Fleet patrolling the north coast of Venezuela.

The porous 1771-mile Venezuelan border with Colombia has allowed massive smuggling of subsidized goods out of the country, while Colombian paramilitaries and drug cartels infiltrate in. Yet the US criticizes Venezuela for allowing drugs to cross into its territory from the Colombian US client state, while the US promulgates regulations to deny Venezuela the light military equipment to help secure its border.

The only risk that Venezuela really imposes on the US is the threat of a good example. And this is precisely why Venezuela is being targeted by the US government for regime change.

Roger D. Harris is president of the Task Force on the Americas (http://www.mitfamericas.org/).