The massive international outpouring of petition signatures and other public acts in response to, and rejection of, U.S. President Barack Obama’s executive declaration of an emergency on March 9, in which the situation in Venezuela was characterized as an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to U.S. interests and foreign policy, and which was accompanied by economic sanctions against seven Venezuelan officials, has reached unprecedented proportions.
On Friday, Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro announced that more than 10 million people in his country, whose total population is 30 million, had signed the main petition. Up to three million people signed in other countries.
At the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, organized by the venerable Organization of American States (OAS) over the weekend, speaker after speaker rose to denounce the Obama statement and demand its retraction. Previously, most of the national governments in the Western Hemisphere, including major U.S. allies, had expressed themselves similarly, as had China, Russia and many poorer countries around the world. Regional organizations including the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of our America (ALBA), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) which includes all Western Hemisphere states except the United States and Canada, voted to condemn the March 9 statement and call for its retraction.
Although many speakers also praised President Obama’s opening to Cuba and the celebrated handshake at the summit between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, the controversy about the statement of Venezuela as a threat undercut what could have ended on a very upbeat note for the United States. From 1962 on the United States had kept Cuba out of the OAS and prevented it from attending previous Summits of the Americas, but in 2012 the Latin American states, including key U.S. ally Colombia, had flatly stated that if Cuba continued to be excluded, there would be no more summits.
The Summit did not issue the customary final document due to the opposition of the United States and Canada to some clauses in the draft. However, the parallel “Summit of the Peoples” which included the participation of workers, small farmers, women, youth, indigenous and Afro-descendents, gay-lesbian people and others, did approve a final statement in which the March 9 “threat” statement was criticized and its retraction demanded.
President Obama responded by explaining that the United States does not actually see Venezuela as a threat. The language about an “emergency” and “threat” was in fact boiler-plate language taken from the federal statute book, which it was necessary to employ in order to justify the sanctions. As can be imagined, neither the Venezuelans nor others saw this as adequate, especially since U.S. officials had earlier stated that the present set of sanctions are just a “beginning”, and are still calling for a complete retraction of the statement.
President Maduro has asked that people in and beyond Venezuela keep on circulating petitions and statements until April 30.
We in the United States have an opportunity join in with all of these millions worldwide who say “no” to interference with Venezuelan national sovereignty!
A number of petitions have been circulating to repudiate the “threat” statement and the sanctions, present and future, against Venezuela and its government officials.
The School of the Americas Watch (S.O.A.W.) which for 24 years has monitored and protested against abuses committed by U.S. and allied military and civil interference in the internal affairs of Latin American countries, has developed a petition campaign. In the words of the petition, the United States should “respect the sovereignty and self-determination of the people of Venezuela”.
We invite our readers to sign the petition also, and to circulate it as widely as possible among the public. Here is the link:
Photo: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, holds a box with signatures from supporters who signed a petition asking the U.S. to end sanctions against Venezuela during a ceremony at the monument for the 500-plus victims of the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama in the neighborhood of Chorrillo in Panama City, April 10. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)