Exactly one month ago, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order calling Venezuela a national security threat, and placing sanctions on seven high-ranking Venezuelan officials suspected of committing human rights violations. Today, in an interview with EFE, Obama backtracked on that assertion, saying:
We do not think that Venezuela is a threat to the United States, and the United States is not a threat to the government of Venezuela.
Despite the re-classification of Venezuela as a non-threat, Obama reiterated his administration’s concern for the human rights situation in the country, saying:
We are still very worried by how the Venezuelan government continues to intimidate its political adversaries, including through arrests and politically-motivated accusations and charges against elected officials, and the continued erosion of human rights.
Obama also called on continental leaders to speak out against the human rights situation in Venezuela.
As news of Obama’s comments spread through social media, Maduro himself took to Twitter to claim victory for the apparent reversal in Washington:
For the past several weeks, the government has been working hard to collect signatures on a petition asking Obama to “repeal the decree”, and claims to have collected at least 10.4 million signatures as of today.
Obama Suggests Energy Alternatives to Caribbean Nations
In an apparent attempt to wean Caribbean nations from Venezuelan oil – offered at very favourable rates through Petrocaribe – Obama suggested that the region look into alternative sources of energy to meet its demands. Speaking in Kingston, Jamaica, Obama said:
This region has some of the highest energy costs in the world. If we can bring these costs down through the development of clean energy and through the growth of efficient energies, we could generate – I think – better investment and growth.
Since 2005, Petrocaribe has offered Caribbean Community nations (plus the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and El Salvador) the opportunity to buy Venezuelan oil at extremely low rates. If a nation is unable to pay for oil, for example, Venezuela has offered 25 year loans with 1% interest rates. The arrangement, which cost the country $2.3 billion between 2011-2013, is widely seen as an attempt to gain leverage in the region.
26 Former Call For Human Rights in Venezuela
A growing list of former leaders – now at 26 – has called on the nations attending the Summit of the Americas in Panama tomorrow to pay close attention to the human rights violations taking place in Venezuela. Some of the leaders, all Ibero-American, have also joined the legal teams of Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma.
Former President of Mexico Felipe Calderon put the position of the group of leaders succinctly:
Silence and submissiveness are not an option for anyone. We’d rather speak up than shut up.
Newspaper Nearly Out of Paper
El Carabobeño, a newspaper that circulates in Carabobo state, is warning readers that it is rapidly running out of printing paper. This is not the first time that the publication has made the claim, something the newspaper’s director, Eduardo Aleman Perez, acknowledged today:
Whenever we’re about to run out of paper, we raise our voice. Then, some rolls of paper appear, as well as a promise to continue deliveries. This last part never takes place, which is why we’re forced to raise our voice again.
Perez also suggested that the cycle of saying they’re almost out of paper and receiving just enough to keep it afloat for a little while longer might be part of a government ploy to discredit critical media:
Maybe they [the government] want people to think that we’re lying, but this is the reality: if we don’t receive paper this week, we’ll have to cut into what we have set aside for future editions of our magazine Parantesis, which is slightly different, and would allow us to print for one more month – no more.
As of today, the newspaper will cut the number of daily pages from 48 to 32, while the Saturday edition will be only 16 pages.