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Judi Lynn

(161,382 posts)
Mon Dec 29, 2014, 05:01 PM Dec 2014

One step forward, one step back in US-Latin America policy

December 19, 2014, 06:00 am
One step forward, one step back in US-Latin America policy

By Alexander Main, contributor

plaudits from around the world. In a short but historic speech, Obama announced a breathtaking series of measures including the reestablishing of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the significant easing of restrictions on travel to the island nation. He also made a plea to Congress to undo the 54-year-old embargo against Cuba.

But at the same time, Obama has supported a significant hardening of policy toward one of Cuba's closest allies in the region.
Venezuela has just joined Cuba as one of only two countries in the Western Hemisphere subject to U.S. sanctions. Legislation mandating sanctions against Venezuelan officials was approved by voice vote in the Senate on Dec. 8 and then sailed through the House on Dec. 10. On Dec. 18, just one day after his speech on a "new course" on Cuba, Obama signed the sanctions bill into law. Cuban-American Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who authored the legislation, called it "a victory for the Venezuelan people."
The trouble is, the people of Venezuela don't seem to agree with Menendez. A survey carried out by independent pollster Datanalisis showed that nearly three quarters of Venezuelans oppose U.S. sanctions. The Caracas-based human rights organization PROVEA — a frequent critic of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro — also vigorously rejects the measure. Other Latin American governments oppose the sanctions as well. At a May summit, South America's heads of state strongly voiced their opposition to the Senate bill and its House companion, authored by Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The stated purpose of the bill is "to impose targeted sanctions on persons responsible for violations of human rights of antigovernment protesters" that took to the streets between February and April of this year demanding Maduro's departure. The bill's promoters mention that over 40 people died during the protests but don't acknowledge that a large number of these deaths included state security forces and pro-government activists and were caused by the protesters themselves. Moreover, as human rights organizations have noted, Venezuelan authorities have carried out investigations of abuses and apprehended at least 17 security agents allegedly implicated in violent acts against demonstrators.


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