Posts Tagged ‘Venezuela’

Take Action Today to Support Venezuela’s Democracy

May 5, 2017

Democrat and Republican senators have introduced a bill to further disrupt Venezuela’s political system with the goal of imposing regime change. We support Pope Frances’ call for dialogue between “ the government and all the components of the Venezuelan society so that every further form of violence is avoided, human rights are respected and negotiated solutions are sought to the humanitarian, social, political and economic crises, which are exhausting the people.” Please write a letter to your two Senators telling them to keep their Hands off Venezuela!

You can automatically send a letter by clicking here.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced a destabilization bill in the Senate in the guise of a humanitarian response to the economic and political crisis Venezuela is confronting. The purpose of the bill is neither to help solve Venezuela’s economic crisis, nor to help bring violent elements in the opposition to the table to discuss peaceful solutions to Venezuela’s problems.

Its purpose is to further destabilize Venezuela’s economy and democracy in order to remove elected President Nicolas Maduro and to crush Hugo Chavez’ Bolivarian Movement which brought hope of a better life to millions around the world. If Senators were serious about responding to a humanitarian crisis they would concentrate their attention on Haiti which is still suffering neglect after the deadly earthquake of 2009. Or concentrate on Honduras which suffered a military coup in 2009 followed by a faux election in which the democratic opposition was not allowed to campaign under a State of Emergency. Honduras’ 2013 election was marred by widespread cheating and the victor of that “election” is this year running for reelection without even changing the constitutional ban on reelection.

Instead, Senators are focused on Venezuela where the government lost 80% of revenue in recent years due to low oil prices and where former US President Jimmy Carter himself said that Venezuela has the best electoral system of any country he has monitored.

We have to call our Senators on their gross hypocrisy. Regardless of whether we agree on all the steps the Venezuelan government has taken to confront the two crises, we can agree that the US government does not have the best interests of Venezuelans at heart. We can agree that no act of the US government to intervene in Venezuela’s internal affairs will improve the lives of Venezuelans. We defend the national sovereignty of all countries and oppose US intervention in the sovereign affairs of our neighboring countries and demand US Hands Off Venezuela!

Click here to send a letter to your Senators.

Background: What is in Senate bill S-1018?

Regime change in Venezuela has been official US government policy throughout the regimes of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump. The US has used its arsenal of regime change tools short of directly sending in military troops. The US has attempted to demonize first President Hugo Chavez and now his successor Nicolas Maduro. The US has implemented economic warfare to “make the economy scream” – as Henry Kissinger said when the US  worked toward regime change in Chile. The US has spent tens of millions of dollars to fund the Venezuelan opposition, including the factions of it that seek the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected government.

Some of the highlights of bill S-1018 are:

*The bill claims there are 108 political prisoners, naming a number of opposition leaders including some found responsible for deaths during the violent demonstrations following the 2015 presidential election won by President Maduro.
*While US-dominated financial institutions block international loans to Venezuela, the bill reverses the reality and “Calls on Venezuelan President Maduro to permit humanitarian assistance, immediately release all political prisoners, and seek assistance from international financial institutions.”
*The bill authorizes $10 million for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide “humanitarian assistance” which is code for funding the opposition, including the violent opposition.
* It backs OAS General Secretary Almagro’s campaign to invoke the OAS Democratic Charter against Venezuela as a means to directly intervene to allegedly “restore democracy.” Almagro’s campaign has failed to pass the OAS General Assembly and has resulted in Venezuela’s announcement to withdraw its membership from the OAS.

 

* The bill “Authorizes $500,000 to support future OAS election observation missions and $9.5 million for democratic civil society organizations working to defend human rights.” In effect, this means funding opposition parties in an OAS-controlled future Venezuela national election when in fact Venezuela’s electoral process is more tamper-proof than that of the US, therefore needing no international monitoring.
* Calls for a report on the “involvement of Venezuelan government officials in corruption and the illicit drug trade,” and calls for US sanctions which could be used as a tool to exclude Chavista leaders from international meetings and from running in future elections.

 

Act now to send a message to your Senators to keep their Hands Off Venezuela!

Venezuela behind the Headlines: The Other Side of the Story

January 23, 2017

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Thursday, January 26, 6-8:30 PM, Unitarian Church of All Souls, Manhattan

Daily news reports continue to paint a dire picture of hunger and misery in Venezuela, while, just before leaving office, Obama renewed an executive order declaring Venezuela a threat to US national security, with accompanying economic sanctions. What is the political context behind these developments and what are the on-the-ground realities in Venezuela today? What are the prospects now for Venezuela and Latin America under the presidency of Trump? How can anti-intervention/anti-imperialist activists separate fact from fiction and stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan people at this time? Come hear from two seasoned activists and experts on Venezuela who have just returned back from there. Join them for lively discussion and Q&A, plus a fascinating slideshow of images you won’t see in the media.

William Camacaro, MFA, originally from Venezuela, is co-founder of the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of New York and is an artist, radio host at WBAI, Pacifica Network and activist in New York City.

Christina Schiavoni is an activist and scholar who has been following food politics in Venezuela for the past decade and is currently doing PhD research on this topic, based at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Netherlands.

William and Christina recently co-authored the Food First report Hunger in Venezuela? A Look Beyond the Spin.

The discussion will be moderated by Suzanne Ross of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Isolina De La Cruz of the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of NY.
This event is free and open to the public. Food will be served.

Location: Unitarian Church of All Souls Church, 1157 Lexington Avenue at East 80th Street, Manhattan, New York City
For questions and to endorse this event, contact cbalbertolovera@gmail.com or 718-510-5523

Co-sponsored by The Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of NY; International Action Center; International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; The MOVE Organization; Nation Time Judicial Research; the ANSWER Coalition; and others (list in formation)

Statement on the Neoliberal Offensive Against the Bolivarian Revolution

May 3, 2016

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Bolivarian Circle of New York “Alberto Lovera”

Statement on the Neoliberal Offensive Against the Bolivarian Revolution

May 2, 2016

The Bolivarian Circle of New York “Alberto Lovera” calls on progressive forces in the United States to stand with the sovereign peoples of Latin America against the US backed right wing offensive in the region. Now is the moment for mobilization, for uniting individual initiatives, and for overcoming sectarian divisions. This corporate offensive is going to impact the entire hemisphere, including the plight of the poor and workers in the United States. It would impose an ambitious and aggressive free trade regime, driving wages down even further and devastating ecosystems. The situation is urgent. In a matter of days President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff may be impeached under pretext of corruption. Last week, a recall referendum was initiated by the Venezuelan opposition in the midst of an economic war, to remove President Maduro from office and put an end to the Chavista project. And just five months into his first term, right wing President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, has already imposed ruthless austerity measures and ceded to the demands of the vulture funds.

All of these attacks are an expression of the New Washington Consensus which posits neoliberalism, and its flagship, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as the only acceptable economic model for the Americas, from Ottawa to Santiago. According to this imperial rationality the Consensus must be forced down the throats of  non-compliant states in the name of democracy and freedom for their peoples. In the aftermath of the signing of the TPP in Auckland, New Zealand two months ago, oligarchic interests in the region are eager to comply and have rapidly stepped up their efforts to reverse the pink tide in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. This conservative tide also aims at the curtailment of the growing economic partnerships forged by the BRICS as well as the termination of complementary trade arrangements of ALBA and PetroCaribe. The BRICS, ALBA, and PetroCaribe promote the diversification of commercial ties and a multipolar, as opposed to a unipolar world. These associations have the potential to pose a challenge to the dominance of a TPP trading block. Such associations therefore stand in the way of the expansion of the TPP and the restoration of US hegemony in its proverbial “backyard”.

This New Washington Consensus is the antithesis of the Bolivarian project. The Bolivarian revolution is a continent wide movement with its historic roots in the independence struggle against Spain. Over the past seventeen years, the Bolivarian project has advanced regional integration and independence in order that the sovereign peoples of the Americas could develop, each in their own way, alternative democratic paths to social and economic justice.  As a result, more than a decade of left and left leaning governments have defied the neoliberal gospel and taken control of their own natural resources, lifting millions of people out of poverty, recognizing a measure of autonomy of Indigenous and Afro-descendant nations, and experimenting with more participatory forms of democracy.

These progressives alternatives, in terms of their ideals, do not conform to the the inner logic of the global capital system, and they call the moral superiority of US exceptionalism into question.  The very existence of the Bolivarian revolution, the Citizens revolution, the communal councils, and the Pluri-national state, demonstrates that history did not end in 1989.  Nor is it written in stone that the progressive cycle is nearing its end. Though still in the grip of global capital and in some cases over-dependent on extractive industry, these Bolivarian alternatives nevertheless demonstrate that there are other feasible economic and social paths forward, ones that seek a departure from the totality of the prevailing system, ones that take into account the constituent power of the sovereign peoples themselves, ones that include Indigenous and Afro-descendant voices.

The main target right now of the New Washington Consensus and its right wing allies in the region is Venezuela, which despite the economic crisis and the opposition’s victory in the December 6 legislative elections, is still the main point of reference for the Bolivarian cause.  For it was Hugo Chavez, backed by popular power, who developed the associations of Latin American and Caribbean integration: CELAC, UNASUR, ALBA, and PetroCaribe, all of which exclude the US and Canada. And it was Chavez who led the resistance to the proliferation of free trade agreements in the region. This may be one of the main reasons for Washington’s continued hostility towards Caracas.

It is important to place the bellicose posture of US policy towards Venezuela in a historical context. Washington has never been prepared to recognize the democratic legitimacy of a Bolivarian alternative in Venezuela, despite solid electoral procedures there. Moreover, President Obama has never recognized the outcome of the election of Nicolas Maduro as President. Venezuela has been subject to coup attempts, paramilitary incursions, an oil strike, a recall referendum, and a relentless US backed opposition ever since Chavez was elected President in 1998.

Obama’s renewal of an executive order last month, declaring Venezuela an extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States; the Senate’s recent extension of sanctions led by the extreme right wing Senator Marco Rubio; and Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent pronouncements against Caracas;  are all directed at buttressing the opposition in Venezuela, which is now in the midst of organizing a recall campaign against President Nicolas Maduro.  The new Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, in conformity with Washington’s New Consensus, seeks to invoke the democratic charter against Venezuela and has repeatedly expressed his selective indignation over human rights abuses in that South American nation, without giving Venezuela a sufficient forum to defend itself against the charges.. But Venezuela is not alone.  The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), whose pro tempore president is now the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez, stands firmly against imperial interference in the internal affairs of Caracas or any other member state. If Dilma Rousseff is ousted in the coming days, however, the conservative wave may very well be on its way to dismembering UNASUR! This would be a great blow to the dream of establishing la gran patria (an integrated South America).

Should Maduro be ousted and the fourth republic be restored in Venezuela, a Clinton administration would likely carry the TPP torch. If we can take a lesson from the precedent of Secretary of State Clinton’s strong backing for golpismo in Honduras; if we remember her refusal to release the transcripts of her highly paid speeches to Goldman Sachs; we might suspect that her conversion to the anti-TPP position at a democratic primary debate with Bernie Sanders is not likely to last beyond the Democratic convention. Clinton has been a true believer in the neoliberal agenda. There is therefore good reason to think that if she were to become president, it is likely she would attempt to destabilize and provide the coup de grace to Bolivian and Ecuadorian democracy. These Bolivarian states have also endured coup attempts and remain in the crosshairs of the New Consensus, but they have taken the precautionary measures of banning USAID from their countries and constitutionally forbidding foreign military bases in their countries.

We must not be lulled into complacency by the tactical overtures of the Obama administration towards Cuba. There is nothing to celebrate. The embargo is still in place.  Guantanamo is still a US military base on Cuban soil, and normalization is a continuation of subversion of the Cuban revolution, now by economic, ideological and technological means. Obama’s trip to Cuba last month, with all its wishful fanfare, was followed by a trip to Argentina to salute his new and most promising ally, President Mauricio Macri. Macri, in just a few months, has implemented austerity, terminated thousands of workers, backed the invocation of the democratic charter against the government of Venezuelan, and has asked for the expulsion of Venezuela from MERCOSUR (Common Market of the South). Macri also supports inclusion of MERCOSUR in the TPP agreements.

In order bring MERCOSUR into the TPP, regime change in Venezuela and Brazil are necessary conditions. In this context, it is no surprise that in Brazil, right wing elites have orchestrated a bogus impeachment process aimed at deposing President Dilma Rousseff. Should Rousseff be ousted a few days from now, Vice President Michel Temer, himself under investigation for corruption, would likely choose  the chair of the Goldman Sachs unit in Brazil, Paulo Leme, to take charge of the Central Bank. There are also reports that IMF official Murilo Portugal is a prime candidate for becoming Finance Minister. Should Brazil follow Argentina in a move to the right, the BRICS would lose one of its major partners and likely join forces with Macri in promoting the TPP.

The Bolivarian project in Latin America, and in particular Venezuela, is not without its faults and limitations. Despite the breach between the popular sectors and the government manifest in the December 6, 2015 legislative elections, Chavistas do not see the restoration of the infamous fourth republic as a viable alternative and will likely circle the wagons against any attack on the homeland. The survival of the Bolivarian project is vital to the possibility of of building human life-centered alternatives to neoliberalism. Now is the time to stand with our brothers and sisters to the South, and to build more bonds of solidarity and community.  In this way it may still be possible for us to join forces to construct a new world in which many worlds can fit and to avoid a return to the age of dirty wars and the dictatorship of the one percent.

Correspondence: cbalbertolovera@gmail.com

The Bolivarian Circle of New York “Alberto Lovera” is an all-volunteer run group that organizes educational forums in solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution. Alberto Lovera was a university lecturer, union leader and member of the Venezuelan Communist Party who was was arrested on 17th October 1965 by officers of Venezuelan Intelligence (DISIP), tortured for several days, and his body was found on October 27, 1965. He was assassinated during the years in which the fourth republic implemented a policy of extermination of political opponents.

 

Events across the country in solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

March 4, 2015

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March 5 is the second anniversary of the passing of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez, who transformed Venezuela through his courageous struggle to help Venezuelans become protagonists of their destiny.

Before Chávez, Venezuela’s natural resources enriched foreign oil companies and elites, both in Venezuela and abroad. Today the country’s wealth has been harnessed for true development — hundreds of thousands of homes and schools have been built, and healthcare has become free and accessible throughout the country. The goal of the Bolivarian revolutionary process is socialism, where every human being can enjoy guaranteed rights of healthcare, education, housing, jobs, equality, culture, social peace, and international solidarity.

The US government is working to destabilize Venezuela’s democratically elected government, using US tax-payer dollars to finance anti-government organizations in Venezuela, encouraging coup attempts and even terrorist attacks on their population. Now, the US is applying sanctions against Venezuela to punish the government and people for defending their sovereignty. It is up to us, the people of the United States, to demand that the US government stop the attacks and destabilization of Venezuela, respect international law and Venezuela’s right to self-determination.

This is a dangerous time for Venezuela. The US has spent millions of dollars to destabilize Venezuela and regain control of their oil reserves, which are the largest on the planet. The Obama administration has increased these aggressive policies since the death of President Chávez and the 2013 election of President Maduro.

After losing legislative elections in late 2013, the opposition began violent street protests a year ago which resulted in over 40 deaths, the majority of which were security forces and Maduro supporters. The street protests failed, but the Obama administration and the Venezuelan opposition have continued their efforts to destabilize the country with the goal of removing Maduro from power.

The achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution in the areas of participatory democracy, economic equality, social justice, education, and healthcare are all gains we could benefit from in the United States. It is our political responsibility to oppose US government plans to destroy Venezuela’s democracy.

Join an event near you!
Boston, Mass.
Thursday, March 5
Encuentro5 at 9A Hamilton Place, Boston, MA 02108-4701
6:30 p.m.
Remembrance of Hugo Chavez facilitated by General Consul Noel Martinez, Vanesa Matamoros and Jorge Marin

San Francisco, Calif.
Thursday, March 5
24th and Mission St.
5:00 p.m.
Rally in Solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

New York City, N.Y.
Thursday, March 5
5th Avenue between 33rd and 34th Street
4:00 p.m.
March: “Human Rights Watch, Weapon of the U.S. State Department”

Chicago, Ill.
Thursday, March 5
Federal Plaza
4:30 p.m.
Rally in solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

Friday, March 6
6:00-8:30 p.m.
Trinity Episcopal Church (125 E 26th St)
Remembering Chavez’ Legacy

Washington, D.C.
Thursday, March 5
Bolivarian Hall (2445 Massachussetts ave. NW)
6:30 p.m.
Remembering our Friend and Compañero Hugo Chavez

Saturday, March 7
7:00-10:00 p.m.
St. Stephen’s Church (1525 Newton Street NW)
The Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Committee/Comité de Solidaridad Latinoamericano y Caribeño invites the Community to a Celebration of The Life and Legacy of Hugo Chavez. Join us for an Evening of Music, Poetry, and Solidarity.

Hammond, Ind. (Purdue University)
Wednesday, March 4
Chamber Hall, 3rd Fl. SULB
12:30 p.m.
Speaker: Jesus Rodriguez, Consul General, Chicago Venezuela Consulate

Larkspur, Calif.
Thursday, March 5
Redwoods Church
7:30 p.m.
Video of Miguel Tinker Salas speaking on US – Latin American Relations in the 21st Century. Discussion led by Martin Sanchez on developments in Venezuela

Tucson, Ariz.
March 5
7:00 p.m.
Global Justice Center (225 E 26th St.)
Remembering Hugo Chavez; Resisting US Intervention. Speakers on Chavez’ legacy and current U.S. efforts at “regime change.”

March Delegation to Venezuela: The Revolution Continues!

January 11, 2015

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March 2015 Delegation to Venezuela: Come with us to learn about human development in Venezuela: education, community based organizations, and the efforts at achieving food sovereignty.

March 22-29

While the mainstream media speculates about the future of the Bolivarian Revolution since the passing of Hugo Chavez, for the Venezuelan popular sectors, there is no turning back to a state of marginalization and exclusion. Come learn about the process currently transpiring in Venezuela as the people, faithful to the legacy of Chavez, deepen and further radicalize their struggle in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution. Come learn, connect, and show your solidarity at this critical moment for the Venezuelan process.

Through direct exchanges with community organizations, social movements, and political leaders, we will explore various areas of social transformation, including food sovereignty, education, healthcare, independent community based media, and direct citizen participation in the political process. There will also be trips to beaches, parks, and other sites of interest.

Cost for Activities: $800. This will cover all lodging, all ground transportation, 2 meals per day, qualified trip leaders, and Spanish-English interpretation. Alcoholic beverages are not included in this activity fee. Additional expenses during the trip will be reasonable.

Days 1-2 and 3: Orientation meeting, Visits to urban agriculture sites and other community initiatives in different communities in Caracas, including 23 de Enero, El Valle, and Petare. Barrio Adentro, Compresive Community Medicine. International School of Medicine, Bolivarian University.

Days 4 and 5: Visit to the Afro-Venezuelan community of Barlovento, known for producing some of the world’s best cocoa; learn about artisanal cacao production as well as artisanal fishing and Venezuela’s progressive fishing laws; enjoy beautiful beaches.

Day 6: Caracas: free day for sight seeing, getting souvenirs,

Day 7: departure.

To Learn more and hold a spot for the trip, email cbalbertolovera@gmail.com. Please be in touch as soon as possible, as space is very limited. Please allow several days for responses.

Sponsored by the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of NY.

Check out these articles from past delegations:

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2008/magdoff040208.html

http://monthlyreview.org/090824shiavoni-camacaro.php

Sponsored by the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of NY.
Check out these articles from past delegations:

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2008/magdoff040208.html

http://monthlyreview.org/090824shiavoni-camacaro.php

Venezuela Sanctions Highlight US Hypocrisy on Human Rights

December 19, 2014

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By LAUREN CARASIK- AL JAZEERA AMERICA,

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced a prisoner swap with Cuba, plans to normalize diplomatic relations and an easing of financial and travel restrictions against Havana. The U.S. embargo, which has lasted for more than a half century, is widely unpopular in Latin America and has been criticized by the international community. Obama said that the ongoing isolation of Cuba was an impediment to his foreign policy in the region and that the thawing of relations would promote “the emergence of a democratic, prosperous and stable” country. Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., predictably denounced the move, with the latter vowing to try to block any change.

Obama’s actions on Cuba, however welcome, stand in stark contrast to efforts to impose sanctions on Venezuelan leaders. On Dec. 10, the U.S. Congress passed the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, imposing sanctions on a number of Venezuelan leaders for human rights abuses committed against anti-government protesters earlier this year. The White House has signaled that Obama will sign the bill. “We have not and will not remain silent in the face of Venezuelan government actions that violate human rights and fundamental freedoms and deviate from well-established democratic norms,” Obama’s press secretary, John Earnest, said in a statement on Dec. 11.

The bill, which was approved after a failed attempt last May, freezes assets and denies or revokes visas for designated leaders. The protests, which began in February, resulted in 43 deaths and hundreds of injuries and arrests. Among the dead were members of the state security forces and both supporters and opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist government. Despite the widely accepted and facile media narrative about the government’s culpability for the origins of the protests and the ensuing violence, there is convincing evidence that Venezuela’s right-wing antagonists bear much of the blame.

Washington’s antipathy toward Venezuela is not new. Since Venezuela’s election of leftist leader Hugo Chávez in 1998, the U.S. government has routinely sought to undermine Venezuela’s democratically elected government. Washington supported a failed coup attempt in 2002 against Chávez. But U.S. efforts to discredit the Venezuelan government did not end there. Washington continues to spend millions to support the opposition in Venezuela and undermine the government through NGOs such as the National Endowment for Democracy.

The sanctions bill affirms that the U.S. seeks “a mutually beneficial relationship with Venezuela based on respect for human rights and the rule of law and a functional and productive relationship on issues of public security.” It appears, however, to be premised more on Washington’s resentment of the leftward shift of some Latin American countries and growing regional cooperation and independence than on concern for the rights of protesters. Latin America is increasingly moving out of the sphere of U.S. influence, rejecting its economic and political dictates.

Cuban-American lawmakers led the charge to single out Venezuela. “We in the United States have an obligation to shine a bright spotlight on Venezuela’s abuses and must object to the severe human rights violations committed by the Maduro government and his paramilitary thugs,” said Menendez, who co-sponsored the bill. Rubio, also a bill co-sponsor, disparaged Venezuela’s socialist economy and lauded the sanctions in a statement after the House passed the bill. “With these sanctions, we can end the days of Venezuelan regime officials and thugs repressing innocent Venezuelans in their day jobs and then coming to Florida to live in the lap of luxury and splurge Venezuela’s wealth,” he said.

A year ago, Secretary of State John Kerry announced the end of the Monroe Doctrine, the principle issued in 1823 by President James Monroe that the Americas would be under U.S. protection from interference by European powers. The U.S. relied on the doctrine to justify nearly two centuries of its own intervention in the rest of the hemisphere. “It will require courage and a willingness to change, but above all, it will require a higher and deeper level of cooperation between us, all of us together as equal partners in this hemisphere,” Kerry said at the time.

The U.S. has been slow to recognize the regional diplomatic preference for a mediated solution to Venezuela’s crisis, though. Many Latin American countries did not support sanctions when first floated by U.S. lawmakers in March and seem unlikely to embrace them now. As a result, the latest sanctions will further erode U.S. influence in the region. And if the U.S. wants to advance the will of the Venezuelan people, the current bill misses its mark. Polls show that the majority of Venezuelans oppose sanctions on the nation’s officials. Among those averse to punitive measures are members of the Venezuelan opposition who fear that Washington’s efforts to demonize government leaders will serve only to strengthen their position, uniting the citizenry against outside interference.

Selective attention

Washington’s focus on human rights abuses in Venezuela is in stark contrast to its aid to Honduras, Mexico and Colombia, which face grave human rights situations. For example, the number of casualties in Venezuela from the protests pale compared with the mounting death toll in Honduras, which is widely known as the world’s murder hot spot. In preliminary observations earlier this month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which promotes human rights in the hemisphere, denounced the climate of violence and impunity in Honduras. In May more than 100 members of Congress urged the State Department to carefully assess its compliance with the 2014 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act and the Leahy Law, which bar assistance to state security forces that commit gross human rights abuses. But the Obama administration has not heeded those admonitions.

Similarly, the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico has drawn renewed attention to the country’s rampant human rights abuses, including those perpetrated by or with the complicity of the Mexican government, which the U.S. supported with nearly $3 billion in military aid through the Mérida Initiative and other bilateral programs since 2008. Colombia, another U.S. ally, also boasts an abysmal human rights record, but the country has received more than $8 billion in U.S. military and police assistance since 2000. Yet instead of imposing sanctions on these countries and its leaders, the U.S. continues to extend tens of millions of dollars in security aid.

Congress passed the Venezuela sanctions bill a day after the Senate Intelligence Committee released the summary of its report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s torture and detention program. Despite its graphic content, Obama has not wavered in his refusal to pursue a full reckoning for the abuses documented in the report, insisting on leaving that shameful chapter in the past. Washington’s punitive stance toward Venezuela, while giving its own architects of torture a free pass, underscores the United States’ long-standing double standard on accountability. Similarly, sanctioning Venezuela while providing cash and security assistance to countries whose governments are implicated in human rights abuses, further exemplifies the United States’ selective respect for human rights. Obama should follow his example on Cuba and engage with, not punish, Venezuela.

Lauren Carasik is a clinical professor of law and the director of the international human rights clinic at the Western New England University School of Law.

Source: Al Jazeera America


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