Venezuela Slams US for Threatening Sanctions

 The Venezuelan government has condemned the United States for threatening to impose sanctions, and accused Washington of encouraging “extremist sectors”.

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
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The foreign ministry criticised the US for threatening sanctions (Zabdiel Gutiérrez/VTV)
The foreign ministry criticised the US for threatening sanctions (Zabdiel Gutiérrez/VTV)

Merida, 28th March 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has condemned the United States for threatening to impose sanctions, and accused Washington of encouraging “extremist sectors”.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Maduro government accused the US of “meddling in ... internal affairs” and “ignoring our democratic process”.

Yesterday, US Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson warned that sanctions against Venezuela could become an “important tool” to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to negotiate with opposition parties. However, Maduro has repeatedly called on opposition parties to join peace talks since last month.

Yesterday the head of the opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) Ramon Guillermo Aveledo stated he would be prepared for “respectful dialogue”, despite previously boycotting talks. The MUD had issued a series of preconditions on talks, including reductions in crime and scarcity, an international arbiter to oversee negotiations, access to a presidential national broadcast and the release of all opposition supporters, including jailed far right leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Earlier today a Venezuelan court rejected an appeal for Lopez's release. Lopez was arrested last month, and faces charges related to violent protests. The court stated the appeal for his release as “without merit”.

The opposition figure's wife, Lilian Tintori described the court's decision an “injustice”.

However, Maduro has accepted the precondition of an international arbiter, with a Vatican City representative being a possible candidate favoured by opposition groups.

“All the initiatives at dialogue that have emerged in recent months are the result of the will of the national government after conversing with all sectors of society to find solutions to the various problems we face today, while fully respecting our constitutional order,” the Foreign Ministry statement read.

“However, the statements of Ms. Jacobson constitute an incentive for the small extremist sectors, who for weeks have been sowing violence and terror throughout the population, to continue their practices in a way that completely violates the constitution and respect for the rights of all Venezuelans,” the statement read.

Amid recent peaceful opposition protests there has been a wave of anti-government vandalism and political violence, despite recent calls for peace from the government and some opposition parties.

37 people have been killed in relation to violent protests since February, Venezuela's attorney general Luisa Ortega told state broadcaster VTV today. According to Ortega, eight of the casualties have been members of state security forces. 168 people are also being detained, mostly in relation to vandalism. 

The attorney general also stated that 81 investigations into possible human rights abuses are currently being undertaken, including 75 cases of possible maltreatment by security forces.

“We're going to punish ...those who appear to be responsible for such incidents,” Ortega told VTV.

The Venezuelan government also accused the US of “hindering” bilateral relations. Diplomatic ties between the two countries have been frosty since the US backed a short lived coup against Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez in 2002. Ambassadors haven't been exchanged since 2010.

The latest round of diplomatic tit-for-tats has included a decision from the US embassy in Caracas to cease issuing tourist visas to first time applicants.

“[W]e have reiterated on several occasions our desire to resume diplomatic dialogue with the U.S. on the basis of mutual respect, but the constant threat of sanctions, the manipulation of the facts and disrespect for our laws and democratic processes are merely hindering the understanding between the two governments,” the Venezuelan government stated.