Venezuela Says US Using Sanctions to Derail Dialogue

A top Venezuelan official accused the Trump administration Thursday of seeking to derail an upcoming round of national dialogue, after Washington imposed new sanctions.

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Venezuelan communication minister Jorge Rodriguez says the announcement of new US sanctions on the same day plans for more dialogue were unveiled “is no coincidence”. (Archive)
Venezuelan communication minister Jorge Rodriguez says the announcement of new US sanctions on the same day plans for more dialogue were unveiled “is no coincidence”. (Archive)
By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
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Puebla, Mexico, November 10, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – A top Venezuelan official accused the Trump administration Thursday of seeking to derail an upcoming round of national dialogue, after Washington imposed new sanctions.

The sanctions were announced on the same day the Venezuelan government and opposition unveiled plans for more negotiations aimed at easing political tension in the South American country.

"It is no coincidence that [US President] Donald Trump is imposing new sanctions today, [and] that the Venezuelan right-wing announces willingness to continue national dialogue,” communication minister Jorge Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez accused the US of intentionally seeking to undermine the talks with the sanctions, which target 10 Venezuelan officials. Announced by the treasury department, the sanctions allegedly target individuals associated with “undermining electoral processes, media censorship, or corruption in government-administered food programs”.

"We will maintain our vigorous efforts to sanction Venezuelan government officials who are complicit in Maduro's attempts to undermine democracy, violate human rights, inhibit the freedom of expression or peaceful assembly, or engage in public corruption, unless they break from Maduro's dictatorial regime,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.

The sanctions include prominent government figures including agriculture minister Freddy Alirio Bernal Rosales, culture minister Ernesto Emilio Villegas Poljak and Manuel Angel Fernandez Melendez, the head of Venezuela’s state-owned telecommunications firm CANTV.

Venezuela’s government has condemned the sanctions, with foreign minister Jorge Arreaza labeling the penalties an attack on the country’s democracy.

“These new, unilateral [and] coercive measures are a sign of the disdain [Trump] has for the Venezuelan people, as he ignores their sovereign will, as expressed on multiple occasions through the popular vote,” Arreaza said.

“Venezuela is a free, independent and sovereign country that will continue to exercise its right to self determination,” he added.

New Dialogue for November

The new sanctions were announced as the government and opposition said they would meet on November 15 in the Dominican Republic. Rodriguez said the aim of the talks will be to agree on a framework for overcoming Venezuela’s political divide.

“A joint document is being prepared for agreements within the framework of coexistence and peace that Venezuelans love and deserve so much,” he said.

Internationally-mediated talks between the government and the main opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), began September 13 in Santo Domingo. However, in late September the opposition suspended talks, after accusing the government of failing to meet its preliminary demands. The government responded by accusing the MUD of changing the goalposts by issuing demands not included in the original preliminary framework.

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