The sanctions, which were approved Thursday by U.S. President Barack Obama, will affect a number of Venezuelan government officials who will have their U.S. visas revoked, as well confiscate any assets held in the United States.
According to the U.S. government, the sanctions are a response to the alleged repression of protesters earlier this year, when opposition supporters took to the streets, setting up armed barricades, preventing the free movement of citizens and essential goods, as well as burning down public buildings and buses. Forty-four people were killed and more than 800 injured during the unrest. The majority of victims were killed by right-wing protesters.
“The most serious aspect of the U.S. sanctions isn’t related to the fact that they are going to cause damage to us, but rather that they are a blank cheque, an incentive, to the groups which are on the margins of the law and the margins of the Constitution in Venezuela,” said Ramirez in an interview with teleSUR.
While the majority of Latin American governments interpreted the barricades as an attempted “soft” coup against the Venezuelan government and sent messages of support calling for an end to the violence, the Obama administration has consistently supported right-wing politicians Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado, who led the violent actions. Both are being tried for crimes related to the instigation of public violence and treason against the state.
Despite U.S. claims, the Venezuelan government has consistently denied that excessive force was used against protestors. It maintains that any action taken was in order to protect the lives of ordinary citizens and that U.S. support for the barricaders is part of strategy to affect regime change in the oil rich Latin American country.
“Every effort was made to ensure that only protesters who directly violated laws or placed the lives of others in danger were detained. For example, those responsible for burning public buses with Molotov cocktails, or who set fire to a public university, were rightly arrested and charged — as were 17 state security agents accused of using excessive force against protesters, who are awaiting trial,” wrote the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, in an Op-Ed in the New York Times earlier this week.
Cabello also accused the Obama administration of hypocrisy, pointing towards the killing of “unarmed black men” by police and the repression of protesters in Ferguson since August.
While the latest sanctions will not directly affect the Venezuelan people, many citizens fear that the they will serve as a pretext for foreign intervention.
“The sanctions against Venezuela are just another act of U.S. colonialism and imperialism, and in spite of the fact that the lion wants to to make himself out to be a sheep, he is still a lion. That´s something that Latin Americans have to understand,” Jose Gimenez, a resident in Caracas told teleSUR.
In 2011, the U.S. sanctioned Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA for doing business with Iran and three Venezuelan government officials for their alleged support for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has described the sanctions as a “wrong move” against the country.
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