U.S. House of Representatives Ignores Latin American Consensus, Passes Sanctions against Venezuela

Despite emphatic opposition from UNASUR, CARICOM, the OAS, the Movement of Non-Aligned Nations, the Venezuelan President, the Venezuelan National Assembly and Venezuelan public opinion, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for sanctions.

By Venezuelanalysis.com
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Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., right, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., speaking at a May 9 rally on Capitol Hill to push for sanctions on Venezuela (AP)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., right, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., speaking at a May 9 rally on Capitol Hill to push for sanctions on Venezuela (AP)

Caracas, 28th May 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Despite emphatic opposition from UNASUR, CARICOM, the OAS, the Movement of Non-Aligned Nations, the Venezuelan President, the Venezuelan National Assembly and Venezuelan public opinion, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for sanctions. A last ditch appeal by Representative John Conyers of Michigan and 13 other progressive Democrats who opposed sanctions and called for restoration of diplomatic relations between the two nations was also ignored.

On May 9, both parties of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives voted to recommend the bill, to impose sanctions on Venezuela and authorize increased money to fund opposition organizations. Today, after 20 minutes of debate, the full House, which includes 435 members, voted by voice to support the bill.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by a right-wing Florida politician, Marco Rubio, has also voted in favor of the bill. Next, the full Senate must vote and then President Obama would have to sign the bill before it becomes law.

However, as Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro reminded his radio program listeners, “(US) laws do not have jurisdiction outside of U.S. territory. The North American government cannot approve legislation to sanction the inhabitants of another country….Any sanctions law approved by the U.S. is spurious. We reject it and will confront it in forums worldwide.” He warned that the “interfering conduct” of the U.S. will continue to evoke international repudiation.

Last week the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) condemned US “interference”, approved the peace process initiated by the Bolivarian government and declared U.S. meddling an obstacle to national dialog. 

Yesterday, The Movement of Nonaligned Countries (NAM), which represents 188 countries, meeting in Algiers, also condemned U.S. violation of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of another country. Moreover, the NAM agreed to hold their 2015 Meeting in Caracas when Venezuela will assume the presidency of the Nonaligned Movement. Further, the Organization of American States, once under greater U.S. influence, has also rejected possible interference in the Venezuelan peace process.

Venezuela’s foreign minister Elias Jaua also plans to call for a condemnation of U.S. interference at the Summit of the G-77 plus China, which meets in Bolivia, June 14-15, and at the Community of Latin American and the Caribbean States (CELAC) which meets next month.

The respected Hinterlaces Venezuelan polling organization , based on questions asked May 10-12, found that 73% - 67% of Venezuelans the oppose sanctions, depending on whether the ostensible reason is for “limiting press freedoms” or “human rights abuses”.

Analysis: the politics behind Congressional vote

Since the opposition’s movement of protests and often violent unrest erupted in February, the hard-line wing of which openly call for Maduro’s ouster, various Venezuelan officials have exposed what they say is US government collusion with the domestic opposition to overthrow the Bolivarian government. 

Today, Maduro illuminated new evidence that Kevin Whitaker, the U.S. Ambassador to Columbia, has been involved in a plot to destabilize the government. It has been suggested that, in a symbiotic relationship, U.S. threats of sanctions encourage the violence of the opposition while the Venezuelan rightists’ disruptive violence further encourage and “justify” US intervention.

Some observers have argued that it is no accident that after a lull in violence in the wealthy eastern areas of Caracas there was a resurgence of violence when U.S. sanctions were first tabled, while the opposition MUD coalition quit peace talks being held with the government in the wake of the initial Congressional Committee’s vote to approve sanctions.

Vicente Bello, a representative of the opposition’s MUD coalition, told the Miami Herald, May 27, that he supports sanctions, “as long as they don’t hurt the general population.” Various right-wing Venezuelan groups with bases in Miami have lobbied hard for sanctions. While Obama has made some statements against sanctions, his reasons do not appear to have to do with support for the principle of non-intervention. Rather, it is likely he recognizes that if the U.S. moves unilaterally against Venezuela, it will incur greater resistance on the part of other Latin American countries he is currently courting.

Meanwhile, during the debate and various denunciations made, little mention has been made of the increased and open financial support the bill would give the Venezuelan opposition. While the sanctions against the people the State Department may put on a list of “human rights violators” will not likely affect existing political support for the government, the fact of the sanctions and millions of extra funding  flowing to opposition organizations may continue to erode the possibility of a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Liberals debate whether sanctions will be effective in promoting regime change in Venezuela —which all supporters of the U.S. imperial project favor. But, according to an ABC News commentator, Riordan Roett, Congressional support for sanctions is not only about regime change. Roett, Director of Latin American Studies at Johns Hopkins University and by no means a supporter of Chavismo, explained sanctions in terms of domestic U.S. politics. “It’s very much like motherhood and apple pie. You can’t lose votes for beating up on Chavez, Chavismo and Maduro in Venezuela. In an election year, the Democrats cannot be seen as soft on communism. While Maduro is not a communist, he certainly is a radical socialist. But again, I think it’s the Cuban connection that drives Democrats in an election year and in particular to support this kind of nonsense.”  

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