Tuesday, March 4, 2014

U.S. to Impose Sanctions Against Venezuela?

U.S. President Barack Obama may have its hands full trying to deal with Russia’s incursion into the Ukraine yet there may be a possibility that the White House could support imposing sanctions against Venezuela.

“There should be sanctions on individuals... The administration is looking at those,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz citing an unidentified "high-level" State Department official.

The head of the Democratic National Committee also claimed that she is also speaking to the White House with the aim of having President Obama take executive action to clear up the immigration status of some Venezuelan residents in the U.S.

Wasserman Schultz blasted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for repressing the opposition and limiting freedom of the press but warned that sanctions against Venezuela must be targeted and not broad.

“Fanning those flames through sanctions, the concern is (with) such a terrible economic situation there already, with many, many people living there in poverty... You could potentially through sanctions make things much, much worse for people on the ground,” said the legislator whose congressional district has one of the largest populations of Venezuelans living in the U.S.

Her remarks came after a closed-door “listening session” with Venezuelan expats who urged greater U.S. action against the Maduro regime.

“We don’t have a government, we have a regime of thugs, they’re stealing our money,” said one of the participants at the event.

Numerous U.S. legislators, particularly those of Cuban-American background, have backed the use of sanctions against the Venezuelan government.  One bipartisan Senate resolution was introduced last week by Bob Melendez and Marco Rubio and “urges President Obama to immediately impose targeted sanctions that are already possible under existing law and encourage a process of dialogue between Venezuela’s government and the political opposition.”

While the proposal calls out the Venezuelan government’s “chronic mismanagement of its economy”, the suggested sanctions would target those suspected of human rights violations exclude economic actions against the Venezuelan state.

Another plan could com later this week from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who will reportedly introduce legislation backing individual sanctions that would prevent specific Venezuelans them from using U.S. banks.

“With at least over a dozen dead and more than 100 injured in countrywide protests against the Maduro regime, the United States has a moral obligation to take a clear stand in support of the Venezuelan people," Ros-Lehtinen said last week when she put forth a separate resolution supporting opposition protesters.

The Republican Ros-Lehtinen’s proposal would supposedly be backed by one of her colleagues from across the aisle, Rep. Joe Garcia.  Last month he called on the Obama administration to grant political asylum to Venezuelans expats who have left their country and are a "target" of the Venezuelan government.

“To ask these people to return when we know there is credible fear of persecution ... is unjust,” Garcia said at a news conference in Miami on February 25th.

Recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that “dialogue” would be the only way to move Venezuela forward rather than "arrests, violence in the streets" and "persecution against young people".  Yet he also admitted during a press conference with his Colombian counterpart last Friday that “mediation” will require the help of other countries since “it's obviously already proven very difficult for the two sides to bring themselves together by themselves”.

In the meantime, plans are under way for this Wednesday that marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez.  Maduro plans to preside over a military parade in Caracas and then attend a ceremony at the mausoleum housing Chavez' remains.  Demonstrations by the opposition are expected to continue much like they did on Tuesday:
Led by students, (thousands of) marchers dressed in white proceeded peacefully and without incident as they streamed through middle class neighborhoods of Caracas toward Petare, a sprawling slum and Chavista stronghold on the capital's eastern entrance.

Protesters chanted "We love you Venezuela" and "Freedom!" as they walked, carrying signs and flags in the red, yellow and blue national colors.

They hoisted banners protesting government censorship and repression. "There is enough teargas to make Venezuela cry," read one.
At least eighteen people have died in violent clashes since the anti-government marches began one month ago.

Video Source– euronews via YouTube

Online Sources – GlobalPost; Voice of America; Miami Herald; BBC News; El Universal; LAHT; local10.com; CBS Miami; South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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