Caracas, December 4, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The member-states of a US-led regional military pact have approved new sanctions against senior Venezuelan officials.
Meeting in Bogota, Colombia on Tuesday, the signatories of the Inter-American Reciprocal Assistance Pact (TIAR) designated Venezuela a “threat to the preservation of peace and security on the continent,” proceeding to blacklist 29 top Caracas officials and persons allegedly affiliated with the Maduro administration.
Topping the list was President Nicolas Maduro, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, Attorney General Tarek William Saab, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, among other leading civilian and military officials. Also named were several businesspeople with purported ties to the government, including Alex Saab, who was sanctioned by the US in July in connection with Venezuela’s CLAP food import program.
According to the final resolution, TIAR members agree to deny entry and transit rights to all persons on the list, which is subject to modification in the future.
Also known as the Rio Pact, the TIAR was founded at the behest of Washington in 1947 as a Cold War era, anti-communist military alliance. The treaty currently has fifteen members, including the US, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Haiti, among others – all of whom attended the Bogota summit on Tuesday.
In July, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido announced Venezuela’s rejoining of the pact, which it had abandoned alongside several allies in 2012. Guaido proclaimed himself “interim president” in January and was immediately recognized by Washington and other right-wing regional governments.
The TIAR was formally invoked on Guaido’s request during a meeting in New York in September, which also saw member states approve measures for the capture and extradition of high ranking officials as well as the freezing of their assets.
Venezuelan opposition leaders have advocated the TIAR as a legal mechanism potentially opening the door for foreign military intervention to topple the Maduro government.
Neighboring countries have been more reticent about military involvement, with Colombian President Ivan Duque denying Tuesday that the meeting authorized “unilateral actions or invitations for the use of force.”
TIAR members justified the latest measures against Venezuela by alleging the “participation of persons linked to the Nicolas Maduro regime to violent acts in the context of legitimate popular protests in some countries of the region.”
In recent months, right-wing governments in Ecuador, Chile, Haiti, and most recently Colombia have been rocked by mass demonstrations against neoliberalism.
Government spokespeople have frequently attributed the uprisings to “meddling” by Caracas, while the Organization of American States has branded them a “destabilization strategy” by the “Bolivarian and Cuban dictatorships.”
Last week, US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams accused Venezuela and Cuba of stirring “strife” in the region. More recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to “support countries trying to prevent Cuba and Venezuela from hijacking those protests,” in what he later termed “our own backyard,” raising concerns about Venezuelan “terrorists” entering Colombia.
Speaking at the University of Louisville on Monday, Pompeo also played down the threat of military intervention, which he nonetheless said was still “on the table.” He also likened Maduro to former Romanian communist leader Nicolae Ceaucescu, who was executed by firing squad during the country’s 1989 color revolution.
Pompeo’s comments were followed by new US sanctions targeting six oil tankers reportedly involved in transporting Venezuelan oil to Cuba.
According to the US Treasury Department, the vessels belong to Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, which has in recent months begun storing its excess capacity in Cuba.
Since 2017, Washington has targeted Venezuela’s oil industry – formerly the source of around ninety-five percent of its export revenues – with punishing financial sanctions in a bid to topple the Maduro administration. US authorities have ramped up the unilateral measures this year, imposing an oil embargo in January, which was extended in August to a blanket ban on dealings with the Venezuelan state.
August’s embargo likewise authorized secondary sanctions against third parties dealing with the Venezuelan government and state entities, which has led several buyers to cancel dealings with state oil company PDVSA.
A report by distinguished economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot has called the sanctions policy “collective punishment,” which they estimate has caused 40,000 deaths since 2017.