Venezuela, A Security Threat, Declares US
10 March 2015
The US has declared Venezuela is a national security threat. US President Barack Obama issued an executive order on March 9, 2015 slapping Venezuela with new sanctions and declaring the Bolivarian nation an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security". President Nicolas Maduro a few days ago revealed new evidence on the coup plot against his administration revealing that much of it was planned in the US.
Reports by international news agencies including AFP, AP, Reuters and TeleSUR English said:
Barack Obama issued the executive order, which senior administration officials said did not target Venezuela's energy sector or broader economy. But the move stokes tensions between the two countries just as US relations with Cuba, a longtime US foe in Latin America and key ally to Venezuela, are set to be normalized.
"Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of US financial systems," announced White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
A Caracas, March 9, 2015 datelined report by Lucas Koerner said:
The sanctions target seven individuals accused by the White House of alleged human rights violations and "public corruption", freezing their assets and barring entry into the US.
The figures include Justo Jose Noguera Pietri, President of the state entity, the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana (CVG) and Katherine Nayarith Haringhton Padron, a national level prosecutor currently taking the lead in the trials of several Venezuelan political opposition leaders, including Leopoldo Lopez.
The report said:
The executive order is the latest in a series of US sanctions imposed on Venezuela over the past few months. On February 3, the Obama administration expanded the list of Venezuelan officials barred from entering the US, which now includes the Chief Prosecutor Luis Ortega Diaz.
The US has failed thus far to disclose evidence that might bolster its claims of human rights violations, leading Venezuelan and other regional leaders to condemn what they regard as the arbitrary and political character of US sanctions.
While regional bodies such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) have called for dialogue, Washington has so far refused to support negotiations or to recognize the organization’s stance.
The order goes on to call for the release of all "political prisoners" allegedly held by the Venezuelan government, including "dozens of students".
The Venezuelan government, for its part, maintains that all of those arrested are in the process of facing trial for criminal offences linked to violent destabilization efforts spearheaded by the opposition.
Former Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Antonio Ledezma was arrested last month on charges of conspiracy and sedition related to the February 12 thwarted "Blue Coup" attempt. A Venezuelan judge found sufficient evidence linking the opposition figure to air force officials involved in the coup as well as to rightwing terrorist leaders such as Lorent Saleh, who was extradited by Colombian authorities to face charges last year.
The other high profile Venezuelan opposition leader currently facing trial is Leopoldo López, who was indicted for his role in leading several months of violent opposition protests last year with the aim of effecting the "exit", or ouster, of the constitutional government. Known as the "guarimbas", these violent protests and street barricades caused the death of 43 people, the majority of whom were security personnel or Chavistas.
Ledezma and López, together with far right leader Maria Corina Machado, were active in the 2002 coup against then president Hugo Chávez, which succeeded in temporarily ousting the Venezuelan leader until he was restored by a popular uprising.
All three opposition leaders also signed a "National Transition Agreement" released on the day prior to February's "Blue Coup" attempt, describing the government of Nicolas Maduro as in its "terminal phase" and declaring the need to "name new authorities" without mentioning elections or other constitutional mechanisms. Many political commentators interpreted the document as an open call for a coup against the president.
The report added:
The Venezuelan government has charged the US government with hypocrisy on the issue of human rights, and in particular the mass repression and incarceration of Afrodescendent communities in the US.
On February 28, President Maduro announced new measures imposing a reciprocal travel visa requirements on U.S. citizens seeking to enter Venezuela as well as mandating a reduction in U.S. embassy staff to levels that match the number of Venezuelan personnel in Washington.
Maduro also announced the creation of an "anti-terrorist list" of individuals barred from entering Venezuela, which will include former US officials such as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who have reportedly "committed human rights violations."
The Reuters report said:
Declaring any country a threat to national security is the first step in starting a US sanctions program. The same process has been followed with countries such as Iran and Syria, U.S. officials said.
The two countries have not had full diplomatic representation since 2008, when late socialist leader Hugo Chavez expelled then-US Ambassador Patrick Duddy. Washington at the time responded by expelling Venezuelan envoy Bernardo Alvarez.
The report said:
Commercial ties between Venezuela and the United States have largely been unaffected by diplomatic flare-ups, which were common during the 14-year-rule of Chavez.
The US is Venezuela's top trading partner, and the OPEC member in 2014 remained the fourth-largest supplier of crude to the United States at an average of 733,000 barrels per day - despite a decade-long effort by Caracas to diversify its oil shipments to China and India.
A Caracas datelined report said:
President Maduro lashed out at the US for imposing sanctions on top Venezuelan officials accused of human rights violations, saying he would ask his country's Congress to grant him additional powers to "fight imperialism."
In a fiery speech broadcast on state television on March 9, 2015, the socialist leader appeared alongside the sanctioned officials, promoting one and congratulating each for the "imperial honor" bestowed by Washington.
"President Barack Obama, in the name of the US imperialist elite, has decided to personally take on the task of defeating my government, intervening in Venezuela, and controlling it from the US," Maduro said. "Obama today took the most aggressive, unjust and poisonous step that the U.S. has ever taken against Venezuela."
One of targeted individuals, Major Gen. Gustavo Gonzalez, director general of Venezuela's intelligence service, was promoted to Interior Minister, a key post responsible for keeping the peace.
Maduro also announced that he would ask the ruling-party controlled Congress to grant him new powers so that he could defend the country against all aggressions and threats to its sovereignty. But he didn't specify the powers or how he'd apply them.
The TeleSUR English report said:
During his weekly televised show last week, Maduro played the audio of a conversation held between Carlos Manuel Osuna Saraco, a former Venezuelan politician living in New York, and a soldier, in which Osuna dictates the statement that the rebel soldiers should read out during the coup.
The Venezuelan leader informed viewers that he would soon call upon the United States to extradite the suspect Osuna for trial in his home country.
Maduro also noted that in addition to the call from Osuna’s base in New York, there was a second phone call from Miami.
Ledezma was in constant coordination with Osuna in New York via telephone.
“There is a lot of hatred in certain minorities [in Venezuela],” Maduro said. “Minorities with economic power that are being encouraged from the US.”
“This plot has a tag which reads 'made in the USA,'” he asserted, adding that a member of the United States Embassy in Venezuela also met with opposition leaders, giving them documents to help in the preparation stage.
He urged Barack Obama to abandon his government's attempts to oust him.
“You, Mr. Obama, must decide … if you want to go down in history as George W. Bush, who failed in attempting to oust President Chavez,” said Maduro.
According to information the government had previously released, the coup plotters had a four-stage plan to oust the president, which would begin with economic warfare and finish with a violent military uprising.
Maduro said preliminary information given by detained officers – not yet confirmed – points at CNN and Televen as two of the media outlets through which the coup plotters’ message would be aired.
Maduro also showed a copy of a new “100-day Plan for Transition”, designed by the coup plotters and the opposition, which stipulated a series of measures which would be implemented by the planned governing junta.
The plan would take effect immediately after the coup, calling for early elections and the privatization of all public services.
The transitional government would request all of the current Venezuelan officials to turn themselves into the police within a period of 180 days. It also requested every Cuban worker within the government to turn themselves in unarmed to their local police station.
The plan also contemplated a role for the IMF, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to intervene in the Venezuelan economy.
Maduro announced further revelations will be made in the following weeks, and said he will bring that evidence to present at the Summit of the Americas, to be held in April in Panama.
“We have only revealed less than one percent of all of the information which the detained generals have given us,” said Maduro.
The Venezuelan president ended the broadcast by urging opposition leaders to stay away from an armed struggle and to respect the Constitution.
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