- Since George Bush took office in January 2001, efforts
to oust Chavez failed three times:
- -- in April 2002 for two days, aborted by mass street
protests and support from Venezuela's military, notably its middle-ranked
- -- the 2002 - 2003 general strike and oil management
lockout, causing severe economic disruptions; and
- -- the failed August 2004 national recall referendum,
Chavez prevailing with a 59% majority.
- Nonetheless, disruptive activities continue, including
malicious propaganda, CIA subversion, funding opposition forces, sanctions,
and militarizing the region, notably in Colombia as well as gunboat diplomacy
by reactivating the Latin American/Caribbean Fourth Fleet for the first
time since 1950 despite no regional threat.
- Ignoring America's appalling human rights record, on
April 11, the State Department issued its 2010 Human Rights Report: Venezuela,
claiming Chavez government responsibility for largely uncorroborated, exaggerated
or falsified abuses, including:
- "unlawful killings, including summary executions
of criminal suspects; widespread criminal kidnappings for ransom; prison
violence and harsh prison conditions; inadequate juvenile detention centers;
arbitrary arrests and detentions; corruption and impunity in police forces;
corruption, inefficiency, and politicization in a judicial system characterized
by trial delays and violations of due process; political prisoners and
selective prosecution for political purposes; infringement of citizens'
privacy rights; restrictions on freedom of expression; government threats
to sanction or close television stations and newspapers; corruption at
all levels of government; threats against domestic NGOs; violence against
women; trafficking in persons; and restrictions on workers' right of association."
- Then on May 24, the State Department imposed sanctions
for the first time against Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state owned
oil company for "deliver(ing) at least two cargos of reformate (a
hydrocarbon product for gasoline) to Iran between December 2010 and March
2011, worth approximately $50 million."
- They "prohibit the company from competing for US
government procurement contracts, from securing financing from the Export-Import
Bank of the United States, and from obtaining US export licenses."
- They don't apply to PDVSA subsidiaries (including US-based
CITGO) or prohibit crude oil exports to America. In 2010, according to
US Energy Information Administration data, Venezuela was America's fifth
largest supplier after Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. In fact,
Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves, including its heavy and
- Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg called sanctioning
PDVSA a "clear message" to companies violating America's 1996
Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), renamed the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA)
in 2006, now the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and
Divestment Act (CISADA), warning they'll "face serious consequences."
- The action came a day after Obama signed an Executive
Order, authorizing new sanctions on Iran, as well as giving the State and
Treasury Departments more latitude in targeting companies dealing with
its energy sector.
- Hard-line Rep. Connie Mack (R. FL), Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee Chairman, said Washington "needs to move quickly to cut
off Chavez's source of revenue, and bring to an end both his influence
in Latin America and his dangerous relationship with the terrorist-supporting
Iranian regime before it's too late."
- Along with extremist Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R. FL)
and Jeb Bush (former FL governor and Bush family member), Mack got President
GHW Bush (in 1990) to pardon Orlando Bosch's criminal downing of Cubana
flight 455 with Luis Posada Carriles, killing all 78 passengers on board.
- As part of their hard-line agenda, Ros-Lehtinen and Mack
now wage war on Chavez, failing in 2008 to designate Venezuela "a
state sponsor of terrorism" through HR 1049.
- In October 2009, Mack again tried unsuccessfully through
HR 872, "Calling for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to be designed
a state sponsor of terrorism for its support of Iran, Hezbollah, and the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC)."
- Mack also called Ecuador's Raphael Correa "a pawn
for his fellow friend and thugocrat, Hugo Chavez."
- Allied with bipartisan extremists in Congress, today's
Republican controlled House is infested with others like him.
- So is the Obama administration, including former National
Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, naming Chavez in his Annual 2010 Threat
Assessment of the US Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee
on Intelligence, calling him a "leading anti-US regional force"
- -- "impos(ing) an authoritarian populist political
model that undermines democratic institutions (a convoluted oxymoron);"
- -- allying with "radical leaders in Cuba, Bolivia,
Ecuador, Nicaragua, and until recently, Honduras," adding that he
opposes "nearly every US policy initiative in the region." For
sure, all imperial ones.
- Responses to Venezuelan Sanctions
- Venezuela rejected them, saying:
- "The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela....expresses
its strongest rejection to this decision (it calls a) hostile action on
the fringes of international law that violates (UN Charter) principles..."
- Calling Washington's action "imperialist aggression,"
it "calls on all the Venezuela people, laborers and especially the
oil workers, to stay alert and mobilized in defense of our PDVSA and the
sacred sovereignty of the homeland."
- An official statement said a "general assessment
of the situation (will) determine how these sanctions affect the operational
capacity of our oil industry, and therefore, the supply of 1.2 million
barrels of oil per day to the US."
- Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said:
- "We are not afraid of these sanctions, nor are we
going to debate the reasons that the North American government may have,
but Venezuela is sovereign in making its decisions."
- Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez added:
- "The imperialist powers are hoping to dictate the
rules to us. They will have to go without, because we are going to keep
advancing towards creating unity between oil-producing countries."
- Responding, Chavez twitted:
- "Sanctions against the homeland of Bolivar? Imposed
by the US imperialist government. Bring it on, Mr. Obama. Do not forget
that we are the children of Bolivar," telling over 1.5 million followers
that "the true impact of this latest US aggression is the strengthening
of our nationalistic and patriotic morale in Venezuela!"
- In other tweets he added:
- "We don't just have the largest oil reserves in
the world. We also have the most revolutionary oil company in the world."
- "So, they wanted to see and feel the flame of the
people of Bolivar defending the independence of the Venezuelan homeland?
Well, there you have it!"
- Majority members in Venezuela's National Assembly also
rejected US sanctions, warning Washington to halt hostile actions or face
possible oil shipment recriminations.
- On May 25, PDVSA workers rallied across Venezuela against
US sanctions, supporting their government, president and company. Women's
groups, peasant organizations, communal councils, and alternative media
also organized a Caracas march.
- The Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of the Americas
(ALBA) also condemned US sanctions, its member countries "express(ing)
our indignation and reject(ion) in the strongest terms....in the framework
of its unilateral policy of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran."
- "Faced with this hostile measure, (ALBA members)
express our absolute backing to (Venezuela), which, guided by a solid conviction
of solidarity, has promoted mechanisms of energy cooperation aimed at strengthening
the unity between our peoples."
- ALBA nations include Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba,
Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as well
as Venezuela. Before Washington's June 2009 coup ousted President Manuel
Zelaya, Honduras was also an ALBA member.
- Friends of Venezuela issued a "Declaration of Rejection
to US Sanctions," responding to Washington's unilateral action, asking
US individuals and organizations to oppose it.
- Denouncing "a grave and dangerous move by Washington
to justify further aggression against the Venezuelan people," they
"unequivocally reject this latest attempt....to demonize (Venezuela)
and undermine the vibrant democracy of the Venezuelan people."
- Using its oil wealth responsibly, over 60% of it goes
for healthcare, education, job training, subsidized food and housing, community
media, reducing poverty, and supporting thousands of communal councils
engaged in grassroots participatory democracy.
- "We find it outrageous that (Washington) demonize(s)
the one (country that's put) people before profits. And we call on our
representatives....to suspend these sanctions....immediately."
- They'll remain, and so will determined millions against
them, weakening Washington's corrosive influence everywhere.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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