Roberta Jacobson, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said today that the United States government was disappointed over Latin America’s response to the sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials suspected of violating human rights during last year’s protests. Jacobson referred specifically to the way some Latin American leaders have responded, saying:
Words are important, as is the tone with which they’re said. The tone that they [Latin American leaders] are using now demonizes the United States as if it were the source of Venezuela’s problems, when we’re not. This makes it difficult for us to move forward in a pragmatic way.
Jacobson also expressed her disappointment over the fact that the sanctions – which specifically target seven individuals whose activities against protesters last year could constitute human rights violations – were not received with more warmth in the continent. Jacobson explained:
I was disappointed that there weren’t more countries defending [the sanctions]. They [weren’t imposed] to hurt the Venezuelan people or the government of Venezuela.
The sanctions freeze U.S.-based assets of seven Venezuelan officials, and prohibits their entry into the country. Ever since the sanctions were announced, the Maduro government has argued that they targeted the Venezuelan people and economy despite the facts. The sanctions also created a frenzy of patriotic and militaristic rhetoric, culminating with a 10-day long national military drill in preparation for a U.S. invasion, as well as air raid drills in Caracas. PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello as gone as far as to say that a U.S. invasion of Venezuela is imminent.
Jacobson also said that the United States is not interested in engaging Venezuela on the topic of sanctions during the meeting of the Organization of American States next week, since she believes the forum is a place to discuss issues with region-wide effects and interests.
Ledezma Legal Team Grows
Antonio Ledezma’s legal team has grown to include 9 former political leaders from around the world, as Uruguayan ex-President Luis Alberto Lacalle announced this week that he would join Ledezma’s defence. Lacalle joins the following foreign leaders who have also pledged their services to Ledezma’s defence:
- Felipe Gonzalez, Prime Minister of Spain 1982-1996.
- Jose Maria Aznar, Prime Minister of Spain 1996-2004.
- Fernando Henrique Cardoso, President of Brazil 1995-2003.
- Andres Pastrana, President of Colombia 1998-2002.
- Sebastian Piñera, President of Chile 2010-2014.
- Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico 2006-2012.
- Alan Garcia, President of Peru 2006-2011.
- Alejandro Toledo, President of Peru 2001-2006.
Upon announcing his decision, Lacalle said:
I’m waiting to get in touch with my colleagues to see how to proceed. I’m very thankful, and when I was in prison, persecuted and made an outlaw, every bit of help that came to us from outside of the country was very much appreciated. It seems to be like a good rule of life is to be thankful, and a good way to show that you’re thankful is to do for others what was done for sure.
Ledezma was arrested earlier this year under dubious charges. Critics contend that the arrest was politically motivated, carried out in order to silence a prominent opposition voice. Ledezma is currently in the Ramo Verde military facility awaiting trial.
Deputy Criticizes Gas Price Hike
National Assembly Deputy Williams Davila criticized the government’s as-of-yet unannounced gas price increase, categorizing it as another example of government mismanagement. Davila pointed out that Venezuelan coffers have virtually nothing to show for the years of record-high gas prices.
Now, as we stand before a fiscal deficit and the social lag as a result of the steep increases in poverty since 2012 – since it reach 48% in 2014 and is dangerously close to reaching 55% this year – the government realizes that it needs more money. The way to do this is to increase gas prices to generate money that will end up like FONDEN and the Chinese Fund [funds heavily criticized due to their lack of transparency]; in other words, black boxes that are discovered only after the socio-economic collapse.
Davila also had harsh words for the oil industry in general and the government’s reliance on it, saying:
[The government] couldn’t develop a socio-economic model that could remove us from this dependence, this rentier curse and underdevelopment.
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