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Venezuela: Washington’s Forgotten Revolution

Lawmakers trying to get human-rights sanctions imposed face an administration that puts words in the opposition's mouth and doesn't want to irk Maduro.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

May 12, 2014 - 9:28 pm
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WASHINGTON — Opponents to the Chavista rule of Nicolas Maduro poured out into the streets as the Euromaidan activists were demanding a future free from the Kremlin’s grip, creating a tug-o-war with the news cycle at different corners of the globe as both Venezuelans and Ukrainians demanded democracy and an economically viable future.

Now, both in the news cycle and in Washington, Venezuela is almost the forgotten revolution.

A quick scan of the headlines in El Universal shows that this ongoing quest hasn’t gotten any better in the South American nation, with Maduro’s government attacking more student demonstrators, going after more protest leaders, and even halting the flow of newsprint to El Universal, forcing the paper to dramatically cut its page count since mid-March.

Opposition leader and former Chacao mayor Leopoldo Lopez has been in Maduro’s custody since Feb. 18, while his wife Lilian Tintori continues leading peaceful protests despite harassment from the government. On an active Twitter account, Tintori vowed to stand “on the side of the truth” and on “the right side of history.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney last mentioned Venezuela in a news briefing on Feb. 25, when he was asked about Washington’s expulsion of three Venezuelan diplomats and the future of the oil trade relationship.

“I would simply say that President Maduro needs to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people through meaningful dialogue with them, not through dialogue with the United States,” Carney said. “Despite what the Venezuelan government would like to lead people to believe, this is not a U.S.-Venezuela issue. It is an issue between Venezuela and its people. We’ve been clear all along that the future of Venezuela is for the Venezuelan people to decide.”

At the State Department last week, spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked about Maduro’s latest demands of the Obama administration: that Washington better not think about applying sanctions because Caracas will retaliate, including hurting Venezuelans living in the U.S. by closing consulates, and that President Obama needs to accept the credentials of the new Venezuelan ambassador.

Psaki said the U.S. is “encouraged” by talks between Maduro’s government and the opposition, mediated in part by the Holy See, and “we encourage the parties to remain focused on strengthening Venezuela’s democracy, including the right to peaceful protests.”

A few hundred Venezuelans joined a “Trip for Freedom” caravan from Florida to Washington on Friday to lobby for sanctions on Capitol Hill, but Psaki said she hadn’t heard of the grass-roots effort. Photos from the protest in front of the White House show one man holding up a sign that reads, “In Venezuela we have a human rights violator as a president, your silence allows it.”

In remarks to the Council of the Americas conference last week, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. “is deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation” in Venezuela.

“We believe the future of Venezuela is for the people of Venezuela to decide. And the people in the streets have legitimate grievances that deserve to be addressed. And the serious and worsening economic and social challenges in Venezuela can only be resolved with the input of those people,” Kerry said.

A few lawmakers with a long history of anti-Chavista activism are trying to put some tangible action behind the platitudes that trickle out of the administration now and then.

Before the House left for recess last week, the Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) “to impose targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for carrying out or ordering human rights abuses against the citizens of Venezuela.”

At Friday’s markup hearing, Ros-Lehtinen also gave a nod to activists who caravanned to D.C., as well as actress Maria Conchita Alonso, who has compared the late Hugo Chavez to Hitler.

“For three months now, the Maduro regime in Venezuela has committed grave human rights violations as it seeks to muzzle students who are peaceful and the Venezuelan people who are calling for the respect of human rights and democracy to really take hold in this country,” the congresswoman said. “There have been over 40 people killed, nearly 60 reported cases of torture, more than 2,000 people unjustly detained, and hundreds more injured.”

Just that week, she noted, “250 teenage protesters, ones who had camped out in public squares to protest, were rounded up at 3 in the morning yesterday; the Venezuelan Intelligence agency, SEBIN, picked up and has put in detention Rodrigo Diamanti, the leader of a NGO called Un Mundo Sin Mordaza; censorship continues as yet another prominent independent radio program was pulled off the airwaves; newspapers like El Universal are saying they have about two weeks left of newsprint because the government has put many challenges in their way to provide information to the people of Venezuela.”

“And lastly, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was supposed to have his day in court yesterday and all of a sudden, his hearing was simply postponed without reason, without discussion, no explanation, simply canceled. All of this happened just this week.”

Ros-Lehtinen stressed that students are still bravely demonstrating and paying the price while congressional opponents of her resolution have said they won’t back sanctions so that the U.S. can “give peace a chance” in Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) talks.

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Top Rated Comments   
There is a reason the Democrats are silent about Venezuela, as most of the MSM is. Liberal students count Chavez a hero - and Obama obviously believes that a government, and one figure in that government, can rule an economy by decree: demonizing small businessmen as profiteers, setting prices, and forcing demand.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
In 2003 16 far left congressmen (Frank, Conyers, Fatah, Schakowsky, Serrano,...) supporting Chavez and calling for Bush43 to support Chavez as internal opposition to his Socialist crackdown swelled. In the ensuing decade the Democrat Party has drifted even further to the left. Democrats like Bill De Blasio cut their political teeth in solidarity movements with communist parties in El Salvador and Nicaragua back in the 80's.
Believe me, they only want to pro democracy students beaten and brainwashed. These are the people that give us our news, educate our kids, and run our government. They care nothing for democracy, only totalitarianism and authoritarianism. We all know that Obama has sympathies for these authoritarians. But even if he loved Democracy, he could not afford to pick a fight with the hard left in the USA.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (12)
All Comments   (12)
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Uncle Hugo may be quite dead but "The evil men do lives after them.." ---William Shakespeare
Memo to Barack Obama: For the nth time--Socialism doesn't work!!
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Progressives don't want to criticize the government of Venezuela because it got in its current situation by implementing the same policies the Progressives want to implement here. The Unenlightened might draw the conclusion that such policies are bad ideas, and they can't have that.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is a reason the Democrats are silent about Venezuela, as most of the MSM is. Liberal students count Chavez a hero - and Obama obviously believes that a government, and one figure in that government, can rule an economy by decree: demonizing small businessmen as profiteers, setting prices, and forcing demand.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes. Obama is silent because he likes the Venezuelan model.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Today is May 13. During the events of Fatima, it was prophesied --in 1917!-- that Communism was going to take over Russia and spread its errors all over the world, no exceptions. That was before the October Revolution when not even the Bolsheviks were sure to prevail. In the same prophecy, now painfully fulfilled in our own country, it was made clear that they won't prevail. In the end, after these enemies of humankind cause a lot of damage, God will triumph, peace and freedom will envelop the whole world. For believers and unbelievers these are again the times that try our innermost convictions. No matter what happens we must remain convinced that the cause of freedom for humankind cannot perish within our shores. The trial is at hand, let us behave like men & women that cherish freedom and truth and are ready to pay a high price for such treasures. Without freedom and truth, life is nothing.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I hope you're right. I really wish Fatima occurred two centuries or a century and a half earlier, before the French Revolution, as that's the time when the French Revolution, the predecessor of Communism, was being formulated before coming into effect in 1789.

However, considering how many damages freedom-lovers such as the Hippie movements, the Jacobins, Sartre, Foucault, and the like did to us, directly or indirectly, I'm not a supporter of freedom, and I doubt God is either.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
What do you suggest? If God comes back and establishes His order, well then. Until then, I say live free or die. But Liberty isnt free, it has a cost, and responsibility is a key component.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Godly freedom is good. Libertine freedom is not freedom and it is not good.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yup, those evil Venezuelan citizens must be suffering from an excess of libertinism.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
What the hell are you talking about?
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
In 2003 16 far left congressmen (Frank, Conyers, Fatah, Schakowsky, Serrano,...) supporting Chavez and calling for Bush43 to support Chavez as internal opposition to his Socialist crackdown swelled. In the ensuing decade the Democrat Party has drifted even further to the left. Democrats like Bill De Blasio cut their political teeth in solidarity movements with communist parties in El Salvador and Nicaragua back in the 80's.
Believe me, they only want to pro democracy students beaten and brainwashed. These are the people that give us our news, educate our kids, and run our government. They care nothing for democracy, only totalitarianism and authoritarianism. We all know that Obama has sympathies for these authoritarians. But even if he loved Democracy, he could not afford to pick a fight with the hard left in the USA.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
You seem to be naïve enough to believe that what they are doing isn't democracy. Sorry to burst your bubble, but what they are promoting even with the totalitarian and authoritarian labels is exactly what democracy truly is. I know this because that's EXACTLY what and how the pro-Democracy French Revolution and Reign of Terror turned out. Those "pro-democracy" students? They just don't know any better. And don't mistake my post as being supportive of the monsters that would beat and brainwash students, I'm not supportive of them at all. Actually, I hate democracy because of their massacring us Christians.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
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