Caracas, November 21st, 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - On Wednesday at a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to consider Anthony Blinken's nomination as deputy secretary of state, the Obama administration's frontrunner indicated a willingness to support further sanctions against Venezuela.
The Obama administration had previously opposed taking punitive action against Venezuela for what the U.S. government says were "human rights abuses" committed during anti-government unrest this year, on the basis that this may lead to a diplomatic clash with Venezuela's allies in the region.
However this week's declarations by Blinken demonstrate a change in the executive's stance towards the South American country. Blinken, who would be working directly under Secretary of State John Kerry, stated that "We would not oppose to moving forward with additional sanctions.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL.) has introduced legislation to the US Senate that would impose sanctions through freezing the financial assets of 27 Venezuelan government officials (see below for a complete list) and would provide more funding to pro-opposition groups in Venezuela.
In response to Blinken's statement to the Senate that "We would look forward to working with you to go further [to impose sanctions on Venezuela]" Rubio said, “I am encouraged that the Obama administration finally announced its support for legislation pending before the Senate that would impose visa and financial sanctions on individuals committing human rights abuses in Venezuela.”
Following the opposition-led political violence that left 43 people dead in Venezuela last February-May, the Obama administration placed a travel ban and visa freeze on a handful of high-ranking yet unidentified Venezuelan officials. These policy changes went into effect in July but until this week, the Obama presidency rejected imposing any further sanctions.
A video was recently released showing Venezuelan opposition leader Leopolodo López calling for “the exit”of President Maduro at a Foundation for Politically Persecuted Venezuelans Abroad (VEPPEX) in Florida in 2013. As Lopez still awaits trial for charges of instigation and perparation of violent acts in February this year, and has refused to attend some court hearings, his imprisonment has attracted international attention.
The U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called for the release of Lopez in late October and then earlier this month, the U.N. Committee Against Torture questioned Venezuela about the alleged abuses committed by security forces during the period of acute opposition protests.
For this period, there are currently 183 human rights violations and 166 cases of cruel treatment officially registered for investigation in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government has repeatedly stated that these cases are being investigated and that human rights are respected in Venezuela, and they therefore see these international accusations as an infringement on their sovereignty.
Meanwhile, U.S. Florida congressional representatives Joe Garcia and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have authored a letter to President Obama asking that Venezuelans be given special consideration for “delayed enforced departure” which the Miami Herald describes as “a protection similar to the one granted to people with Temporary Protected Status, or TPS.”
Both shifting the status of Venezuelan immigrants to a special category, generally reserved for individuals facing persecution, and freezing assets of Venezuelan officials would signify a significant policy shift for the Obama administration with respect to Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government considers U.S. attempts at applying sanctions as an act of foreign intervention which forms part of a wider local and international effort to attack and undermine the Bolivarian project.
27 Venezuelans that Senator Marco Rubio Calls to be Sanctioned
Source: Latin American Herald Tribune
1. Aref Eduardo Richany Jiménez General Director Directorate of Armaments and Explosives (DAEX)
2. Julio César Morales Prieto General Director Directorate of Armaments and Explosives (DAEX)
3. Hugo Carvajal Director Directorate of Military Intelligence
4. Iván Hernández Dala Director General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence
5. Luisa Ortega Diaz General Prosecutor Office of the General Prosecutor
6. Luis Alberto Arrayago Coronel Chief of the Regional Command Number 8, National Bolivarian Armed Forces
7. Miguel Vivas Landino Chief Strategic Region of Integral Defense of the Andes National Bolivarian Armed Forces
8. Francisco Rangel Gómez Governor Governorship Bolívar State
9. Alexis Ramírez Governor Governorship Mérida State
10. Jose Gregorio Vielma Mora Governor Governorship Táchira State
11. Henry Rangel Silva Governor Governorship Trujillo State
12. Aquíles Rojas Patiño Commander of the "Guardia del Pueblo" Regiment, Bolivarian National Guard
13. Justo Jose Noguera Pietri Commander General Bolivarian National Guard
14. Sergio Rivero Marcano National Commander, Guardia del Pueblo, Bolivarian National Guard
15. Antonio Benavides Torres Director of Operations Bolivarian National Guard
16. Franklin Garcia Duque Chief of the Regional Command Number 1, Bolivarian National Guard
17. Arquímedes Herrera Ruso Chief of the Regional Command Number 2, Bolivarian National Guard
18. Manuel José Graterol Colmenarez, Chief of the Regional Command Number 3, Bolivarian National Guard
19. Octavio Chacón, Chief of the Regional Command Number 4, Bolivarian National Guard
20. Manuel Quevedo, Chief of the Regional Command Number 5, Bolivarian National Guard
21. Gustavo Colmenares, Chief of the Operative Zone of Integral Defense, Venezuelan Navy
22. Miguel Rodriguez Torres, Minister Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace
23. Marcos Rojas Figueroa, Vice Minister of the Integral Police System, Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace
24. Hebert Garcia Plaza Vice Minister of Services Ministry of Defense
25. Manuel Eduardo Pérez Urdaneta Director Bolivarian National Police
26. Gustavo Enrique González López, Director General Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia (SEBIN) (Intelligence Services)
27. Manuel Gregorio Bernal Martínez, Director General - removed on Feb 18, Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia (SEBIN) (intelligence Services)