[News] Maybe Obama’s Sanctions on Venezuela are Not Really About His Deep Concern Over Suppression of Political Rights

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 13 12:05:01 EDT 2015

  Maybe Obama’s Sanctions on Venezuela are Not Really About His “Deep
  Concern” Over Suppression of Political Rights

By Glenn Greenwald 
@ggreenwald <https://twitter.com/@ggreenwald>
Wednesday at 1:18 PM

The White House on Monday announced 
the imposition of new sanctions on various Venezuelan officials, 
pronouncing itself “deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s 
efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents”: /deeply 
concerned. /President Obama also, reportedly 
with a straight face, officially declared 
<https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/09/fact-sheet-venezuela-executive-order> that 
Venezuela poses “an extraordinary threat to the national security” of 
the U.S. — a declaration necessary to legally justify the sanctions.

Today, one of the Obama administration’s closest allies on the planet, 
Saudi Arabia, sentenced 
one of that country’s few independent human rights activists, Mohammed 
al-Bajad, to 10 years in prison on “terrorism” charges. That is 
completely consistent with that regime’s systematic and 
extreme repression, which includes gruesome state beheadings 
at a record-setting rate, floggings and long prison terms 
for anti-regime bloggers, executions 
of those with minority religious views, and exploitation of terror laws 
to imprison 
even the mildest regime critics.

Absolutely nobody expects the “deeply concerned” President Obama to 
impose sanctions on the Saudis — nor on any of the other loyal U.S. 
allies from Egypt 
to the UAE 
whose repression is far worse than Venezuela’s. Perhaps those who 
actually believe U.S. proclamations about imposing sanctions on 
Venezuela in objection to suppression of political opposition might 
spend some time thinking about what accounts for that disparity.

That nothing is more insincere than purported U.S. concerns over 
political repression is too self-evident to debate. Supporting the most 
repressive regimes on the planet in order to suppress and control their 
populations is and long has been a staple of U.S. (and British 
foreign policy. “Human rights” is the weapon invoked by the U.S. 
Government and its loyal media to cynically demonize regimes that refuse 
to follow U.S. dictates, while far worse tyranny is steadfastly 
overlooked, or expressly cheered, when undertaken by compliant regimes, 
such as those in Riyadh and Cairo (see this /USA Today/ article 
one of many, recently hailing /the Saudis/ as one of the “moderate” 
countries in the region). This is exactly the tactic that leads neocons 
to feign concern for Afghan women or the plight of Iranian gays when 
doing so helps to gin up war-rage against those regimes, while they 
snuggle up to far worse but far more compliant regimes.

Any rational person who watched the entire top echelon of the U.S. 
government drop what they were doing 
to make a pilgrimage to Riyadh to pay homage to the Saudi monarchs 
(Obama cut short a state visit to India to do so), or who watches the 
mountain of arms and money flow to the regime in Cairo, would do nothing 
other than cackle when hearing U.S. officials announce that they are 
imposing sanctions to punish repression of political opposition. And 
indeed, that’s what most of the world outside of the U.S. and Europe 
do when they hear such claims. But from the perspective of U.S. 
officials, that’s fine, because such pretenses to noble intentions are 
primarily intended for domestic consumption.

As for Obama’s decree that Venezuela now poses an “extraordinary threat 
to the national security” of the United States, is there anyone, 
anywhere, that wants to defend the reasonability of that claim? Think 
about what it says about our discourse that Obama officials know they 
can issue such insultingly false tripe with no consequences.

But what’s not too obvious to point out is what the U.S is actually 
doing in Venezuela. It’s truly remarkable how the very same people who 
demand U.S. actions against the democratically elected government in 
Caracas are the ones who most aggressively mock Venezuelan leaders when 
they point out that the U.S. is working to undermine their government.

The worst media offender in this regard is /The New York Times/, which 
explicitly /celebrated/ 
<https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/17/democracy-really-means-u-s-jargon-subservience-u-s/> the 
2002 U.S.-supported coup <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzSnH4_p0PY> 
of Hugo Chavez as a victory for democracy, but which now regularly 
the notion that the U.S. would ever do something as untoward as 
undermine the Venezuelan government. Watch this short video from Monday 
where the always-excellent Matt Lee of /Associated Press/ questions a 
State Department spokesperson this week after she said it was 
“ludicrous” to think that the U.S. would ever do such a thing:

The real question is this: if concern over suppression of political 
rights is not the real reason the U.S. is imposing new sanctions on 
Venezuela (perish the thought!), what is? Among the most insightful 
commentators on U.S. policy in Latin America is Mark Weisbrot of Just 
Foreign Policy. Read his excellent article for Al Jazeera 
on the recent Obama decree on Venezuela.

In essence, Venezuela is one of the very few countries with significant 
oil reserves which does not submit to U.S. dictates, and this simply 
cannot be permitted (such countries are always at the top of the U.S. 
government and media list of Countries To Be Demonized). Beyond that, 
the popularity of Chavez and the relative improvement of Venezuela’s 
under his redistributionist policies 
<http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/oct/04/venezuela-hugo-chavez-election-data> petrifies neoliberal 
institutions for its ability to serve as an example; just as the Cuban 
economy was choked by decades of U.S. sanctions and then held up by the 
U.S. as a failure of Communism, subverting the Venezuelan economy is 
crucial to destroying this success.

As Weisbrot notes, every country in the hemisphere except for the U.S. 
and Canada have united to oppose U.S. sanctions on Venezuela. The 
Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) issued a 
<http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/samper-venezuela-eeuu-conflicto-unasur.html> in 
February in response to the prior round of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela 
that “reiterates its strong repudiation of the application of unilateral 
coercive measures that are contrary to international law.” This week, 
the chief of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) issued 
a statement 
<http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/samper-venezuela-eeuu-conflicto-unasur.html> announcing 
that “UNASUR rejects any external or internal attempt at interference 
that seeks to disrupt the democratic process in Venezuela.” Weisbrot 
compares Obama’s decree this week on Venezuela to President Reagan’s 
quite similar 1985 decree 
that Nicaragua was a national security threat to the U.S., and 
notes: “The Obama administration is more isolated today 
in Latin America than even George W. Bush’s administration was.”

If Obama and supporters want the government of Venezuela to be punished 
and/or toppled because they refuse to comply with U.S. dictates, they 
should at least be honest about their beliefs so that their true 
character can be seen. Pretending that any of this has to do with the 
U.S. Government’s anger over suppression of political opponents — when 
their closest allies are the world champions at that — should be too 
insulting of everyone’s intelligence to even be an option.

Email the author: glenn.greenwald at theintercept.com 
<mailto:glenn.greenwald at theintercept.com>

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