President Barack Obama announced surprise sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials today, freezing their property in the country, banning U.S. citizens from conducting business with them, and denying them entry into the country. Obama signed the sanctions via executive order, citing the “erosion of human rights guarantees” in the country as the reason for the move.
On top of the new sanctions, Obama used the emergency powers to declare:
… a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela.
According to the White House, the seven officials were targeted specifically for sanctions because they are deemed to be:
… persons involved in or responsible for the erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to antigovernment protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of antigovernment protestors…
The seven officials targeted by the new sanctions are:
- Antonio Benadives Torres, Commander of the Strategic Region for the Integral Defense.
- Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez, Director of the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN).
- Justo Noguera Pietri, President of the Guayana Venezuela Corporation and former National Guard commander.
- Katherine Haringhton, the public prosecutor who charged Maria Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma.
- Manuel Perez Urdaneta, Director of the National Bolivarian Police.
- Manuel Bernal Martinez, Commander of the army’s 31st Bridage.
- Miguel Vivas Landino, Inspector General of the Armed Forces.
The sanctions, published on the White House website, can be seen here.
In response, the Venezuelan government has summed the highest ranking U.S. official in the country, Maximillien Arvelaiz, for an “immediate” meeting regarding the unfolding situation.
Cabello Decries Sanctions
National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello was quick to respond to the news of the sanctions, and claimed that a military attack against Venezuela was imminent:
We reject the intentions of North American imperialism. What’s coming now are military attacks against out country. These resolutions are used by imperialism every time it attacks a people. What weapon have we with which to threaten the United States? Dignity. That’s the feeling among the imperial upper echelons who want to get their claws on our country, but our oil above all else.
Cabello went as far as to give a rough timeline for the alleged U.S. attack against Venezuela:
This plan [to attack] already has a set date. The order is to remove the Bolivarian government some time between April 4 and 11, before the Summit of the Americas [April 10 and 11] (…) If they’re willing to attack us, we’re willing to defend our love for our homeland.
Cabello did not provide evidence for any of his claims.
For his part, Aragua state Governor Tareck El Aissami called the United States “a real threat” to all of humanity, and warned Obama that his “decadent empire” could never stop the Bolivarian revolution.