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Greenwald writes: "The White House on Monday announced the imposition of new sanctions on various Venezuelan officials, pronouncing itself 'deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government's efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents': deeply concerned."

Glenn Greenwald. (photo: PBS)
Glenn Greenwald. (photo: PBS)


US Sanctions on Venezuela Not Really About Human Rights

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

13 March 15

 

he White House on Monday announced the imposition of new sanctions on various Venezuelan officials, pronouncing itself “deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents”: deeply concerned. President Obama also, reportedly with a straight face, officially declared that Venezuela poses “an extraordinary threat to the national security” of the U.S. — a declaration necessary to legally justify the sanctions.

Today, one of the Obama administration’s closest allies on the planet, Saudi Arabia, sentenced one of that country’s few independent human rights activists, Mohammed al-Bajad, to 10 years in prison on “terrorism” charges. That is completely consistent with that regime’s systematic and extreme repression, which includes gruesome state beheadings at a record-setting rate, floggings and long prison terms for anti-regime bloggers, executions of those with minority religious views, and exploitation of terror laws to imprison even the mildest regime critics.

Absolutely nobody expects the “deeply concerned” President Obama to impose sanctions on the Saudis — nor on any of the other loyal U.S. allies from Egypt to the UAE whose repression is far worse than Venezuela’s. Perhaps those who actually believe U.S. proclamations about imposing sanctions on Venezuela in objection to suppression of political opposition might spend some time thinking about what accounts for that disparity.

That nothing is more insincere than purported U.S. concerns over political repression is too self-evident to debate. Supporting the most repressive regimes on the planet in order to suppress and control their populations is and long has been a staple of U.S. (and British) foreign policy. “Human rights” is the weapon invoked by the U.S. Government and its loyal media to cynically demonize regimes that refuse to follow U.S. dictates, while far worse tyranny is steadfastly overlooked, or expressly cheered, when undertaken by compliant regimes, such as those in Riyadh and Cairo (see this USA Today article, one of many, recently hailing the Saudis as one of the “moderate” countries in the region). This is exactly the tactic that leads neocons to feign concern for Afghan women or the plight of Iranian gays when doing so helps to gin up war-rage against those regimes, while they snuggle up to far worse but far more compliant regimes.

Any rational person who watched the entire top echelon of the U.S. government drop what they were doing to make a pilgrimage to Riyadh to pay homage to the Saudi monarchs (Obama cut short a state visit to India to do so), or who watches the mountain of arms and money flow to the regime in Cairo, would do nothing other than cackle when hearing U.S. officials announce that they are imposing sanctions to punish repression of political opposition. And indeed, that’s what most of the world outside of the U.S. and Europe do when they hear such claims. But from the perspective of U.S. officials, that’s fine, because such pretenses to noble intentions are primarily intended for domestic consumption.

As for Obama’s decree that Venezuela now poses an “extraordinary threat to the national security” of the United States, is there anyone, anywhere, that wants to defend the reasonability of that claim? Think about what it says about our discourse that Obama officials know they can issue such insultingly false tripe with no consequences.

But what’s not too obvious to point out is what the U.S is actually doing in Venezuela. It’s truly remarkable how the very same people who demand U.S. actions against the democratically elected government in Caracas are the ones who most aggressively mock Venezuelan leaders when they point out that the U.S. is working to undermine their government.

The worst media offender in this regard is The New York Times, which explicitly celebrated the 2002 U.S.-supported coup of Hugo Chavez as a victory for democracy, but which now regularly derides the notion that the U.S. would ever do something as untoward as undermine the Venezuelan government. Watch this short video from Monday where the always-excellent Matt Lee of Associated Press questions a State Department spokesperson this week after she said it was “ludicrous” to think that the U.S. would ever do such a thing:

The real question is this: if concern over suppression of political rights is not the real reason the U.S. is imposing new sanctions on Venezuela (perish the thought!), what is? Among the most insightful commentators on U.S. policy in Latin America is Mark Weisbrot of Just Foreign Policy. Read his excellent article for Al Jazeera on the recent Obama decree on Venezuela.

In essence, Venezuela is one of the very few countries with significant oil reserves which does not submit to U.S. dictates, and this simply cannot be permitted (such countries are always at the top of the U.S. government and media list of Countries To Be Demonized). Beyond that, the popularity of Chavez and the relative improvement of Venezuela’s poor under his redistributionist policies petrifies neoliberal institutions for its ability to serve as an example; just as the Cuban economy was choked by decades of U.S. sanctions and then held up by the U.S. as a failure of Communism, subverting the Venezuelan economy is crucial to destroying this success.

As Weisbrot notes, every country in the hemisphere except for the U.S. and Canada have united to oppose U.S. sanctions on Venezuela. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) issued a statement in February in response to the prior round of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela that “reiterates its strong repudiation of the application of unilateral coercive measures that are contrary to international law.” This week, the chief of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) issued a statement announcing that “UNASUR rejects any external or internal attempt at interference that seeks to disrupt the democratic process in Venezuela.” Weisbrot compares Obama’s decree this week on Venezuela to President Reagan’s quite similar 1985 decree that Nicaragua was a national security threat to the U.S., and notes: “The Obama administration is more isolated today in Latin America than even George W. Bush’s administration was.”

If Obama and supporters want the government of Venezuela to be punished and/or toppled because they refuse to comply with U.S. dictates, they should at least be honest about their beliefs so that their true character can be seen. Pretending that any of this has to do with the U.S. Government’s anger over suppression of political opponents — when their closest allies are the world champions at that — should be too insulting of everyone’s intelligence to even be an option.

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+52 # Wordslinger 2015-03-13 11:02
As usual,the United States will pursue any tactic, legitimate or otherwise to dominate any country which has resources we seek to control. Can you say Iran? Iraq? It's completely asinine for the U.S. to complain about ANYONE'S human rights violations and omit those of it's tyrannical allies!! Screw Amerika Inc.!!
 
 
+14 # Anonymot 2015-03-13 17:45
Don't leave out Hillary's favorites: Libya (oil), Afghanistan (80% of the world's heroin), and Burma (18% of the world's heroin.
 
 
+19 # ritawalpoleague 2015-03-13 11:52
Wordslinger, you done slung your words well. And, so did truth telling journalist, Adrian Stanley, when coming up with her headline in the Colorado Independent article re. brutalizing and torture of 2007 St. Patrick's Day Parade participants, who, with parade permit in place, dared to openly show support of peace and justice as they peacefully marched in the parade. Her 'head': NO PEACE OR JUSTICE.

Cannot have anyone or any country dare to oppose the villainaire 1% actual rulers, i.e. fossil 'foolers', Wall Streeters, military-indust rial complex 'warhawks', et. al., now can this no longer a democracy, U. S. of (greed and need for power over all) A. (ddiction). How dare any country refuse to be dominated by our evil, actual U.S. rulers via their bought off pol. puppets?
 
 
+22 # Vardoz 2015-03-13 12:10
Not at the moment and the fossil owners are in charge- the fact that we are facing extinction from climate change doesn't matter to them- we are already undergoing the largest extinction in millions of years, our oceans our dying from over acidification but profits at all costs to everything rules the day. Murder of mankind on the macro and micro level is all OK with this gang who are taking us all on a suicide trip. There is no morality or justice. It's just a matter of degree- there has always been atrocities when it comes to human beings - People seem to find all kinds of justifications to kill each other - there are many though who wish it was different and hope for a better life during our short existences and for our species. Some nations like Sweden, Finland and parts of the EU strive for something better.
 
 
+11 # Vardoz 2015-03-13 12:01
It is clear that Obama is a complete puppet- he is being held hostage himself by the robber barons- I feel bad for him and his family- it is a big price to pay for financial security.
 
 
+9 # RLF 2015-03-13 14:23
Obama is doing this himself...he is scum. This action is not only a giant kiss right on the anal pucker of the rich and the oil barons. He already said he wants to be a new oil power in the world but then oil prices took a dive...this is a way to get them up...what an asshole! The rich are getting their rim job because they are scared as hell that socialism is losing it's demonized name and pretty soon people in this country might decide to take a similar course.
 
 
+1 # C-SIK 2015-03-16 22:58
I LOVED AN ARTICLE IN THE ROLLING STONE -
AN INTERVIEW WITH MERLE HAGGARD -
I LOVE MERLE ---
I HOPE I GET TO DO SONG WITH HIM SOME DAY!
AND I HOPE I DON'T GET HIM IN TROUBLE WHEN THINK I REMEMBER READING TWO THINGS ABOUT OBAMA -
WHEN HE WAS 1ST ELECTED -
"IT'S LIKE SEEING A TURTLE ON A FENCE POST " - - - - - -
"YOU WONDER HOW IT GOT THERE?- - - - "
AND --
HIS WIFE AND DAUGHTERS MAKE HIM SO VULNERABLE TO ANY RACIST LOONEY !
WHO REALLY KILLED MARTIN LUTHER KING ?
DO U THINK WE'LL EVER KNOW ??
THESE ARE ALL STRINGS FOR THE PUPETEERS -
STRONG STRINGS AROUND THE HEART AND NECK OF A SCARED MAN -
OUR PRESIDENT -
SLAVE AND SLAVE MASTER !!!
 
 
-1 # C-SIK 2015-03-16 23:16
A SCARED AND VULNERABLE PUPPET WITH MANY STRONG STRINGS -
MILLION DOLLAR STRINGS -
I AM SURE ALL PRESIDENTS GOT THEM -
THAT'S HOW YOU GET TO BE PRESIDENT -
THE GEORGE W.DYNASTY WEARS IT'S STRINGS
WITHOUT A PROBLEM -
9/11 "NOT A PROB' " -" JUST TELL ME WHAT TO SAY "
TILL THEY GET ALZHIEMER LIKE THE REAGANS -
BUT SUPPOSE OBAMA SAID -
"I DON'T THINK SO "
THEN HE GETS A LITTLE NOTE -
FROM ONE OF CHENEY'S 'PERSUADERS'
i'M NOT SAYING THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS -
BUT I DON'T THINK WE SHOULD DISMISS IT -
AS A POSSIBILITY -
ANY TAKERS ???
 
 
+30 # David Starr 2015-03-13 12:02
Simply put, Obama is spewing complete bullshit. Venezuela IS NOT a threat. It's that old imperial game that both Republicans and Democrats play.
 
 
+14 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-03-13 17:17
Wrong!! Venezuela is a BIG THREAT to the villainairs who run this sorry nation. The Greedy psychopaths fear that the Venezuela's use of the oil money to meet the needs of the people will spread all over South America and other nations would care about their citizens over the growing wealth of the fat cats. The US tried a couple of times to get rid of Hugo Chavez. Then he got instant cancer. That happens a lot to people that don't agree with the Neo Cons. In order to help get rid of such socialist idea of caring for the people, the US got Saudi Arabia to flood the market with cheap oil to damage the economies of both Russia and Venezuela.
 
 
+2 # David Starr 2015-03-15 12:14
# wantrealdemocra cy: Yes, the threat of a good example (for the people).
 
 
-20 # arquebus 2015-03-13 12:29
Simple solution that makes it irrelevant what "sins" either the US or Venezuela has committed. Just don't deal with them. Close the Citgo stations in the US and let Venezuela sell its oil elsewhere. They go their way and we go ours.
 
 
+17 # caphillprof 2015-03-13 13:44
I believe there is no precedence for the United States letting any other country "go their way and we go ours."

What do you have in mind?
 
 
-10 # arquebus 2015-03-13 21:10
Just ignore them. They don't like us, then don't deal with us and we won't deal with you.
 
 
+20 # Radscal 2015-03-13 14:05
What about the 100,000 poor here in the U.S. to whom Venezuela provides free heating oil? Where will they go for free heat in the winter?

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/342972
 
 
+8 # RLF 2015-03-13 14:24
Obama is a Harvard man...what the hell does he care about the working poor?
 
 
+16 # Radscal 2015-03-13 15:00
He doesn't. The free heating oil is provided by Venezuela (and has been for about a decade), which is why I mentioned it in reply to arque's suggestion we stop importing oil from them.
 
 
-13 # arquebus 2015-03-13 21:12
We'll just have to get it someplace else.

It becomes tiresome when countries take our money and then bad mouth us. If they don't like what we do, then don't do business with us. Simple.
 
 
+5 # Radscal 2015-03-13 23:41
Who is going to provide FREE heating oil to the poor in the U.S. if we stop Venezuela from sending us oil?
 
 
+4 # Helen Marshall 2015-03-14 20:54
Countries take our money and then badmouth us?? What the h*ll are you talking about???
 
 
-6 # Anonymot 2015-03-13 17:31
Great idea. Where do you buy your funny reefers? And what is the relation between Citgo & Venezuela?
 
 
+1 # arquebus 2015-03-13 21:16
Citgo is a wholly owned subsidiary of the national oil company of Venezuela....ow ned by that government.
 
 
+29 # reiverpacific 2015-03-13 12:35
As if the US hasn't done enough damage almost annually to the Southern Americas in usurpation, overthrow, murder, death-squad training, CIA infiltration and Fascist Dictatorship supporting!
I'm especially disappointed in Obama's administration and the flip-flop from when he met the late Hugo Chavez shortly after Ob's first election, assuring him that he'd "Nothing to fear from America on his watch" or words to that general effect!
They'll never really forgive Venezuela for leading the huge continent out of the shadows and US Corporate/Milit ary control into progressive paths.
No place is perfect but S. America's powerful nations (Brazil alone is now the World's fifth or sixth largest economy) are going forward instead of regressing to oligarchy-drive n feudalism -a bit like much of the "Homeland" is heading!
 
 
+2 # ManK 2015-03-15 19:18
Watch Oscar Award Winner Oliver Stone's chilling Documentary "South of the Border" to know more on the Oil Cartel/ CIA/ Banksters involvement in Venezuela and South America in general....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvjIwVjJsXc
 
 
+32 # Johnny 2015-03-13 13:19
No sense of humor? All these serious comments! The president of the country that kidnaps people all over the world and takes them to secret prisons where it tortures them, many to death; has the largest number and percentage of its people in prison; stuffs its jails with political prisoners like Chelsey Manning and the Holy Land Five; allows police to gun down hundreds of unarmed citizens with impunity; funds, arms, and trains terrorists to attack Syria; slaughters wedding parties and children with drone-launched missiles--accus es Venezuela of abusing human rights! Hilarious! What a jolly joker, that Obomber!
 
 
+24 # Dale 2015-03-13 13:42
Venezuela has made great progress since 2008 that greatly benefit the people. Given these achievements for “Socialism of the 21st Century” why does President Obama declare that Venezuela is a threat to U.S. national security and impose sanctions? (What, Venezuelan agents are going to secretly fund a renewed Occupy? Retaliate for attempted assassination of President Maduro by putting a hit on Obama?) Why is there a clear intent to reverse all these accomplishments and revert to the class rule of the privileged by instigating regime change by subversion, force and violence? Precisely because these are worthy achievements, examples for the region and the world. And because Venezuela sits on vast oil reserves; because oil revenue serves social development instead of private enrichment; because Venezuela pursues policies that challenge U.S. regional dominance; because Obama and all servants of power, Republican and Democrat, cannot abide challenge to the rule of capital.
Personally, I really grow weary of “liberal” Democrats, Obama, former Secretary Clinton, current Secretary of State Kerry, who feign as defenders of democracy, justice and progress while acting to impose dictatorship, injustice, and roll-back of progress.
 
 
+6 # Merlin 2015-03-13 21:10
Dale 2015-03-13 13:42
Personally, I really grow weary of “liberal” Democrats, Obama, former Secretary Clinton, current Secretary of State Kerry…

The use of the word "Liberal" (even in quotes,) should not be used to describe these corporatist shills. It sullies the word Liberal, to be even near them. Too many people already believe they are. We should not encourage the connection.

And, yes, I get your sarcasm, but it is a bad usage of it here, in my view.
 
 
0 # perkinsej 2015-03-13 16:22
I thought Africa was a European sphere of influence. Years ago, after many U.S. firms left South Africa because of organized protests at home, they did not return in full force after conditions improved. I once participated in a "teach-in" at the Univesity of Southern Calif. and my recommendation at the time was "to get out" and "stay out." Guess most large U.S. corporations were thinking along similar lines.
 
 
+6 # Anonymot 2015-03-13 17:53
We want to keep Venezuela's neighbor, Columbia, happy, because Columbia is a big drug producer and transporter and a close friend of American administrations , just as Syria and Egypt were targets for regime change to keep their neighbor Israel happy. And the words Socialism or Communism still make our right-wing leaders light up like pinball machines.
 
 
+8 # rhgreen 2015-03-13 18:17
I send out a blog, approximately twice-weekly, and among other things I follow US foreign policy - present and past - as it affects Latin America and the Middle East. Greenwald's comments are dead on. I periodically email Obama, not that it does any good, and I am going to do so now - saying that if there is a coup down there or any other US interference with Venezuela's government, then I am going to go down there to fight for them, rather like Lafayette did for the American patriots. And I am 75. (Mind you, US interference in Latin American affairs on behalf of US corporate power and the US 1% goes way back.) I'll send a copy to the majority leaders of the House and the Senate, which of course will do even less good.
 
 
+6 # shgo 2015-03-13 18:30
Time to call OBAMA and tell him to keep his dirty hands off Venezuela - I did that this a.m. - here's the number - 202-456-1111 - white house comment line.
 
 
+3 # Helen Marshall 2015-03-14 20:55
I wish I thought he cared what we think.
 
 
+4 # dbrize 2015-03-13 19:48
This stuff has been going on for decades.

A fine testament is John Perkins, CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HITMAN published a decade or so ago.

He has followed it up with a couple more excellent works detailing the ongoing machinations of our clandestine activities.
 
 
+3 # reiverpacific 2015-03-13 20:32
Quoting dbrize:
This stuff has been going on for decades.

A fine testament is John Perkins, CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HITMAN published a decade or so ago.

He has followed it up with a couple more excellent works detailing the ongoing machinations of our clandestine activities.

Better still, from an earlier time, the late Phillip Agee's "Inside the Company; CIA Diary".
 
 
+1 # nice2bgreat 2015-03-13 23:33
.
Welcome to the neo-crat generation.
.
 
 
+1 # EternalTruth 2015-03-14 06:14
What would it take to end this bullshit?
 
 
+4 # geohorse 2015-03-14 07:02
A president who knows how to keep from getting assassinated by big business/milita ry powermongers that run foreign policy.
 
 
+4 # Merlin 2015-03-14 07:44
geohorse 2015-03-14 07:02

Exactly!
 
 
0 # EternalTruth 2015-03-16 14:25
And how do we do that? I'm not convinced that even if we had a great candidate that we were able to inform the masses about (msm obviously isn't going to help); if we got a majority to vote for her, I'm not convinced they'd let her get inaugurated. But even supposing the votes are counted properly, how do we get the word out, and get this person elected over the power of the msm?
 
 
+4 # PCPrincess 2015-03-14 09:32
You have all said it perfectly, and I could add nothing more to the conversation, but to say to Venezuela, "hang in there!", you have many U.S. supporters who are way passed frustrated with our current social/governme ntal structure and well into pissed off. I see past nationalistic 'borders' and view the world as our community, so, in that respect, we have your back!
 
 
0 # Douglas Jack 2015-03-14 11:03
PCPrincess, I stand with you. RE: ". . . we have your back". For supporters to say this honestly without hypocrisy, means that we must live simply in solidarity with Venezuelans & all the people of the world who are presently under our violent invasive extractive parasitic western economy. Every dollar & moment we spend funds the Finance-Media-M ilitary-Industr ial-Legislative -Complex oligarchs who are vying for world control of all people & resources. If one consumes luxuries from the oligarchical system, then one is financing its violence. All humanity's 'indigenous' (Latin 'self-generatin g') ancestors lived in peace & massive abundance before the colonial age. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/home/2-mutual-aid
 
 
0 # C-SIK 2015-03-16 23:26
i'M WITH U BRO -
i'M 72 OR 73 -
AND THOSE SORRY FOOLS -
ARE GOING BACK TO THE HELL REALMS ! ! !
 
 
+2 # John S. Browne 2015-03-15 15:22
#

Sanctions and embargoes are war crimes; so, the U.S. government and its Western allies have declared an illegal war of aggression on Venezuela, like the empire has done time and time again throughout the decades; but now, since 9-11, far more so. Thus, the biggest threat to peace and stability (except, of course, their brand of "peace and stability" where puppet regimes are installed
that completely cow-tow to the U.S. government and the rest of the West), is at it again, seeking to
get a compliant government in charge of Venezuela; for, it will have none of governments truly being sovereign, independent and free. They "have to" bow to Western and globalist economic enslavement, or they will be overthrown one way or another, and a compliant puppet regime installed in their stead.

So much for the U.S. government being a shining example for the promotion of "freedom" and "liberty", which they have not been truly interested in for quite a long time now. It's about bringing more and more countries, and eventually all or most of them, under the global(ist) "dictatorship of many dictators" seeking to enslave the entire world under its completely, truly un-free hubris and hegemony without mercy. Comply or die is their publicly-unspok en mantra. Bow to us, "or else" (we will destroy you, no matter how many innocent civilians die in the process). You will be another one of our many puppet-states or you will suffer the consequences for not bowing down to the "N.W.O."!

#
 
 
+1 # tomtom 2015-03-16 11:47
So, the question, again, is: what can/should we do? Like we did to end the Viet Ñam war: organize, educate, Emancipate! While we accept Government handouts, we need to establish workshops/group assemblies, to solve, strategize, accentuate our strengths and overwhelm, overcome and end these injustices/crim es. We don't need súper-héroes, just active participation by us.
 
 
-5 # mmcmanus 2015-03-16 13:31
Greenwald is such a shallow and mediocre journalist that sometimes his points that may be legitimate are obscured by his sloppiness and penchant for making up a "story" with no signifant basis. The "national security" language Greenwald cites to and ridicules is required boilerplate language in all such sanctions actions taken by the government, like the tiny print on the back of your rental car agreement that says if the company goes bankrupt, you're responsible. It is essentially meaningless legalize.
 
 
0 # Merlin 2015-03-17 14:42
mmcmanus 2015-03-16 13:31

Total corporatist horsepucky
 

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