Regional Leaders Back Venezuela at Panama Summit as US Blocks Final Declaration

The US and Canada barred the final declaration of the OAS summit citing objections to several points in the draft document, including defining access to healthcare as a "human right".


Caracas, April 13, 2015 ( – Regional leaders flocked to Panama City this past weekend for the VII Summit of the Americas, which has been widely hailed as a victory for left-leaning and progressive forces in the region, particularly Venezuela and Cuba. 

The summit was marked by the historic presence of Cuba whose president Raul Castro addressed his counterparts and held face to face talks with Barack Obama, the first Cuban leader to do so since the socialist nation’s US-imposed expulsion from the Organization of American States in 1962.

However, the much anticipated rapprochement between the two nations was largely upstaged by regional leaders’ near uniform rejection of President Obama’s March 9 Executive Order labeling Venezuela a “national security threat”, which has been condemned by all 33 nations of the CELAC  (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and other regional bodies. 

While positively noting the steps taken by Obama to reestablish bilateral ties with Cuba, Castro nonetheless criticized the US president for his aggressive measures against Venezuela. 

“Venezuela is not and could never be a threat to the national security of a superpower like the US,” declared the Cuban leader, calling on Obama to “repeal the Executive Order” and “lift unilateral sanctions”. 

“I must reaffirm all of our loyal and resolute support for the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, for the legitimate government and civil-military union headed by President Nicolas Maduro.” 

The US president’s Executive Order was further denounced by numerous other heads of state who called for its repeal. 

“President Obama’s Executive Order against Venezuela fragrantly violates international law,” stated Ecuador’s Rafael Correa.

“The regional response has been overwhelming, rejecting the Executive Order and calling for its repeal. Our peoples will never accept more tutelage, nor intervention.” 

For her part, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff indicated that “unilateral measures of isolation” were no longer tolerable in this new “moment of hemispheric relations”.

“We reject the adoption of sanctions against Venezuela,” she added.

Argentine head of state Cristina Fernandez also denounced Executive Order, which she termed “ridiculous”.

“Its ridiculous […] that not just Venezuela but any country on our continent could be some kind of threat to the huge country that is the U.S.”

During his speech before the summit, Bolivian president Evo Morales slammed US imperial intervention in the region.

“We don’t want more Monroes in our continent, nor more Truman doctrine, nor more Reagan doctrine, nor more Bush doctrine. We don’t want any more presidential decrees nor more executive orders declaring us threats to their country.” 

Recently elected Tabare Vasquez of Uruguay added his voice to the resounding chorus condemning the White House’s Executive Order.

“As we’ve already expressed in other bilateral and multilateral spheres such as the Union of South American Nations and the Organization of American States, we reject the executive decree of the US government, approved March 9.”

The US leader’s Executive Order was also strongly criticized by Daniel Ortega and Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the presidents of Nicaragua and El Salvador. 

“This is a blow to our America,” remarked Ortega, referring to the US decree against Venezuela. 

“Appealing to the principle of self-determination of peoples, we consider that the recent Executive Order about Venezuela should be annulled,” asserted the leftist Salvadoran  president.

US President Barack Obama failed to stay for the speeches of Christina Fernandez and Nicolas Maduro, leaving the plenum early in order to reportedly meet with his Colombian counterpart, Manuel Santos. 

Obama and Maduro Meet Face to Face 

 During the summit, President Obama agreed to a ten minute closed door meeting with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, which the latter termed “serious, frank, and cordial”. 

“I told president Obama that I am not an enemy of the United States, nor are my people,” declared the Venezuelan leader following the meeting. 

During his speech before the summit, Maduro indicated his openness to direct talks with his US counterpart, emphasizing that Venezuelans “are not anti-United States” but “anti-imperialists”. 

“I extend my hand to you president Obama to resolve the problems we have between us, in peace, without any intervention in internal matters,” he stated. 

The Venezuelan head of state also named several key issues he called on Obama to address in the context of bilateral talks, including US refusal to “recognize our Revolution”, the White House’s Executive Decree, the US embassy’s role in destabilization efforts, as well as US support for anti-government groups operating from US soil. 

US and Canada Block Final Summit Declaration 

Towards the close of the summit, the US and Canada blocked the approval of a final declaration backed by the 33 other nations of the region, which was the result of four months of prior negotiations.

The final declaration requires approval by consensus and the two North American nations opposed several points in the draft document, including health as a human right, technology transfers to developing countries, an end to electronic espionage, and the repeal of Obama’s Executive Order. 

The US-Canadian veto was criticized by Bolivian President Evo Morales. 

“One point was important: health as a human right, and the U.S. government did not accept that health should be considered a human right […] President Obama did not accept the document,” explained Bolivia’s first indigenous president. 

The previous Summit of the Americas held in Colombia in 2012 likewise failed to issue a final document due to US rejection of language opposing its blockade against Cuba. 

US Refuses to Revoke Executive Order

Despite repeated calls throughout the summit for President Obama to repeal his Executive Order targeting Venezuela, the US administration has dug in its heels, refusing to repeal the decree. 

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson stated on Saturday that although her government did not consider Venezuela a “threat”, the Executive Order would not be repealed given that “it’s something that’s already been implemented.” 

The comments follow similar contradictory remarks by Barack Obama on Thursday who also denied that Venezuela posed a threat to the United States, an admission which has been hailed as a victory by President Nicolas Maduro, who initiated a petition campaign that has collected 13 million signatures against the Executive Order.

“We do not believe that Venezuela poses a threat to the United States, nor does the United States threaten the Venezuelan government,” clarified Obama in an interview with EFE. 

Nonetheless, the US leader indicated no intention of repealing the Executive Order, going on to justify the sanctions imposed on Venezuela, which are allegedly aimed at “discouraging human rights violations and corruption.”

The White House’s Executive Order has over the past month ignited a global backlash against US aggression, a reaction which has been lamented by Jacobson.  

“I am disappointed that there were not more countries to defend [the sanctions]. They were not made to harm Venezuelans or the Venezuelan government,” noted the Assistant Secretary of State.