Venezuela Pulls Top Diplomat from Washington, Vows to Pressure Obama Over Sanctions

Venezuela withdrew its top diplomat in the United States Wednesday, after the White House renewed sanctions targeting Caracas.


Puebla, Mexico, March 10, 2016 ( – Venezuela withdrew its top diplomat in the United States Wednesday, after the White House renewed sanctions targeting Caracas.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he had recalled Washington charge d’affaires Maximilien Arvelaiz in response to “arrogance” from President Barack Obama.

“If they don’t want anything to do with us, then … Venezuela recalls its ambassador in Washington,” he said in an announcement carried by state media.

Arvelaiz had been awaiting official appointment to an ambassadorial position for months, according to Reuters. Venezuela and the US haven’t traded ambassadors in close to six years. As charge d’affaires, Arvelaiz had been Venezuela’s highest ranking diplomat in Washington.

Maduro said the diplomatic jab at the Obama administration was part of a broader “Comprehensive Anti-Imperialist Plan.”

The plan is intended to pressure Obama to rescind year old sanctions on Venezuela, which Maduro has warned are part of efforts to destabilise his government. The sanctions were first issued by Obama through an executive order in March 2015.

“I have approved a special plan to denounce this decree at the international level … and we will create an alliance to bring our demand for help … to all international forums,” Maduro declared.

Obama’s decree has already been roundly condemned by many Latin American leaders. Shortly after the decree was first issued, all 33 members of the regional bloc, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) denounced the sanctions.

Along with the sanctions themselves, the decree has been criticised by many regional leaders for describing Venezuela as “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

Amid a wave of international backlash in the leadup to the April 2015 Summit of the Americas, Obama defended the sanctions by arguing they only targeted a handful of senior Venezuelan officials, while one of his aides conceded the controversial wording of the executive order was simply “pro forma.”

During a 2015 interview with EFE, Obama said, “We do not believe that Venezuela poses a threat to the United States, nor does the United States threaten the Venezuelan government.”

Earlier this week, Maduro described the sanctions as a “criminal declaration,” and called on supporters to rally on Saturday. Maduro’s call for rallies against the sanctions came at the same time Venezuela’s right-wing political coalition, the MUD, announced its own fresh protests. Since winning control of the National Assembly in December 2015, the MUD has demanded the socialist president resign.