Sanctions against Venezuela: Colossal hypocrisy

Both houses of the U.S. Congress have voted to impose sanctions on Venezuela to punish it for what right-wing Congress members claim are violations of human rights by the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

The accusations against Venezuelan officials stem from violent street rioting, not peaceful protests, that took place from February to June of this year. There were 43 deaths and many injuries, as right-wing opposition leaders in Venezuela called on their supporters to oust President Maduro. The vast majority of the deaths were at the hands of opposition activists, and most victims were pro-Maduro activists, security officers or bystanders. Some police officers who were involved in deaths were fired and/or are being prosecuted.

The rationale for the sanctions is also based on the prosecution by Venezuela of two opposition leaders, Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado. There seems to be legitimate evidence of illegal actions by these two characters, including instigation of violence in which, besides the deaths, public buildings and buses were set on fire. Yet U.S. media and politicians have put out a distorted view, portraying the rioters as victims of a despotic regime.

The sanctions passed are mostly directed at 56 individuals connected with President Maduro’s government, including state governors and police officials. If President Obama signs the bill, which it is generally believed he will do, the U.S. government is instructed to cancel visas for these individuals, deport them if they are in the United States, and seize their assets.

Venezuela and its allies have reacted strongly to what they call an attack on Venezuela’s national sovereignty.

In fact, the Congressional vote is a case of breathtaking hypocrisy.

In the very same week that these sanctions were voted, the following things also happened:

*The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on abuses, including torture, which the Central Intelligence Agency perpetrated against prisoners the United States got its hands on in George W. Bush’s “War Against Terrorism.” It makes for revolting reading. And as the C.I.A. has clearly indicted, it thinks torture is a good thing to do and in the future is likely to do it again – as it had been doing long before 9/11/2001.

*All over the United States, unprecedentedly large demonstrations have been going on for weeks, on the subject of police brutality and especially the killing of African Americans by racist police. This has been going on for a very long time, as Angela Davis has noted, since slavery days. Nobody, however, has tried to impose sanctions on the United States.

*In Brazil, a report by the nation’s Truth Commission indicated that while the U.S.-supported military dictatorship ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1986, hundreds of people were subjected to tortures just as revolting as the ones mentioned in the U.S. Senate report, and more than 400 were murdered. Though it is to the Obama administration’s credit that it cooperated with the Brazilian investigation, nevertheless the fact remains that earlier administrations had been fully involved in training Brazilian agents to use sophisticated torture methods. One of the people tortured was Dilma Rousseff, just elected to a second term as president of Brazil.

*In Mexico, 42 of the 43 teacher training students from the college in Ayotzinapa, State of Guerrero, are still missing, as massive demonstrations rock the country under the slogan “They were taken away alive, we want them back alive.” It is becoming clearer that the Mexican government’s “official story,” that the mayor of the small city of Iguala had the students kidnapped and murdered by a drug gang, is probably false. In fact, it appears more and more likely that federal security personnel, police but in collaboration with the army, kidnapped the students and most probably killed them for political motives. The Obama administration has offered the Mexican government technical help in “finding” the students. But still there is no “sanctioning” of Mexico, even though if federal police or army were involved, they were probably using weapons, ammunition and equipment provided to Mexico under the terms of the Mérida Initiative. That agreement was signed in 2008 between then President George W. Bush and the Mexican president, Felipe Calderón of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN).  Elected two years earlier, Calderón had sent the army into the streets of Mexican towns and cities, supposedly to fight drug cartels. However, the result was a disaster: Violence and insecurity were greatly increased, and to date there are 24,000 people listed as missing in Mexico, as well as the perhaps 100,000 deaths that are related to the “drug war.” But there is no talk of the U.S. Congress voting sanctions against Mexico because of this horrific bloodbath.

At a Monday ceremony celebrating the 15th anniversary of Venezuela’s Bolivarian constitution, President Maduro denounced the sanctions vote, and called for criminal prosecution of U.S. officials responsible for the torture detailed in the U.S. Senate report.

The sanctions bill on the president’s desk is S2142 The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014. To voice opposition to this travesty, readers can contact the White House here.

Photo: Facebook



Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.