Venezuelan 'threat' to US at Panama summit

Obama holds brief conversation with Maduro during Summit of the Americas.

Venezuelan 'threat' to US at Panama summit

World Bulletin / News Desk

Tensions in U.S.-Venezuelan relations were back in the spotlight Saturday in Panama, where the presidents of both countries were attending the seventh Summit of the Americas.

A March 9 executive order by U.S. President Barack Obama continues to elicit condemnation and protest in South America. The order imposed economic sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials for alleged human rights violations against antigovernment protesters.

Several South American presidents denounced the measures during the two-day summit. It was the first summit to host all 35 heads of state in the Americas, due to a breakthrough in U.S.-Cuban relations.

“This good moment in hemispheric relations can no longer permit unilateral measures and isolationist policies. They’re counter-productive and ineffective. That’s why we reject the adoption of sanctions against Venezuela,” Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff said Saturday during her plenary remarks.

Condemnation of the order has been universal in the region, even from the strongest U.S. allies. CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, denounced the “coercive, unilateral measures that contravene international law” in a March 26 declaration. The regional bloc is comprised of all 33 states in the hemisphere, with the exceptions of the U.S. and Canada.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro addressed the issue during his plenary remarks Saturday. Obama was notably absent during the speech.

“We’re not anti-U.S., we’re anti-imperialist. None of you would permit a decree like that,” said Maduro.

A petition in Venezuela calling for the repeal of the executive order has garnered more than 10 million signatures, roughly one third of the country’s total population.

“I extend my hand to President Obama for us to talk and resolve the issues that we need to resolve between the United States and Venezuela in a peaceful way and without intervention in anyone’s domestic affairs,” said Maduro.

Obama and Maduro did not hold a formal meeting in Panama, but the two did have a brief conversation Saturday afternoon on the margins of a plenary session.

“President Obama indicated our strong support for a peaceful dialogue between the parties in Venezuela,” said U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan.

“He reiterated that our interest is not in threatening Venezuela, but in supporting democracy, stability and prosperity in Venezuela and the region,” said Meehan.

Maduro described the informal encounter as serious, frank and cordial. A process of conversations could get started in the next few days, he said.

The wording of the executive order has been a factor in the overwhelming response it has received in Venezuela and throughout the region.

“The situation in Venezuela ... constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” according to the executive order, in which Obama declares a national emergency.

In the days prior to the Summit of the Americas in Panama, State Department counselor Thomas Shannon met with government officials in Caracas. Obama also told reporters that the wording of executive orders is standard and clarified that he does not consider Venezuela to be a threat to the US.

“It’s not enough,” Maduro said Saturday.

Last Mod: 12 Nisan 2015, 11:06
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