Criticism of Venezuela’s Response to President Obama’s Executive Order

An op-ed in El Pais, Spain’s leading newspaper, by Peace Zárate, an expert in public international law, criticizes Venezuela’s response to President Obama’s March 9th executive order. [1]

According to the author, the Venezuelan and UNASUR reactions to the executive order prompt four questions and answers.

First, are the reactions proportional to the executive order? “No” is his answer. He reasons, “No doubt that Caracas has the sovereign right to feel offended by the actions taken by the U.S. government. However, these [U.S.] actions are not “the most aggressive, . . . nefarious, unfair, and . . . [unprecedented measures] against Venezuela” as described by [Venezuelan President] Maduro. The measures have not been taken against the country as a whole, nor against all its citizens, nor against its economy, trade and bilateral investments, but only [against] seven officials individually responsible for severe and massive human rights violations. . . . These seven individuals are prohibited from entering U.S. territory and prevented from making transactions relating to assets located in the [U.S.].”

Second, are these sanctions illegal? “No,” again is his answer. He says, “The justification given by the Obama administration was respect for human rights and safeguarding democratic institutions within the framework of international law. These rules are contained in both treaties to which Venezuela and the [U.S.] are signatories, and in customary international law. Serious violations of human rights are not ‘internal affairs.’ They are the exception to the principle of non-intervention. And in the case of Venezuela, these violations have been established by the U.N. and [the] most respected international non-governmental human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.” Moreover, the “U.S. sanctions [against] seven Venezuelan officials are: a minor gesture and [permissible].”

Third, was the U.S. entitled to impose these sanctions? “Yes,” is his answer even though the U.S. does not have a perfect record on human rights and even though “countries generally tend to avoid taking [their] own actions when human rights are violated in another state. . . .But this reluctance does not mean [a] State cannot adopt sanctions. . . .  And to do that, international law does not [require a state to have an unblemished record] (no state has that).”

Fourth, “what effect will [the sanctions] have for the individual rights of the citizens of Venezuela, where repression leads [to] a growing account of death and torture [as it] is governed by decree?” That question is unanswered even as “the practical effects for the seven Venezuelan officials affected by the sanctions are minimal” and “the impasse between Washington and Caracas eventually [will] be solved.”


[1] The reactions of Venezuela, UNASUR and ALBA were described in prior posts: U.S. and Cuba Squabble Over U.S. Sanctions Against Certain Venezuelans (Mar. 16, 2015); Venezuela’s Open Letter to the People of the United States (Mar. 18, 2015); and ALBA Emergency Meeting’s Action Regarding President Obama’s Executive Order Imposing Sanctions on Seven Venezuelans (Mar. 19, 2015).

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

One thought on “Criticism of Venezuela’s Response to President Obama’s Executive Order”

  1. First look at the source of the article used by above commentator. El Pais is a conservative media owned by wealthy Spanish who were former colonizers of Latin America and benefactors of piracy and oppression. By all press accounts the Venezuelan government has made no threats to the US government, has not attacked any neighboring country, has proposed diplomatic talks with the US which have been denied and continues to be a major trading country in the export to the US of oil. However the US government has chosen to designate Venezuela as an extraordinary National Security Threat in order to began extrajudicial actions against the countries legal branch who are investigating planned actions by opposition leaders, in conjunction with the US embassy and funds coming out of USAID, State Dept, National Endowment for Democracy, International Republican Institute, etc. in fomenting a violent transition of government in Venezuela. These actions, similar to an attempted coup in 2002 have resulted in death of opposition and pro government supporters and police and state security forces. The Latin American countries have had over a century of military and political intervention by the US and are justified in calling out the guilty party trying to hide behind the curtain of power and privilege. Google searches can lead to multiple informational sources of American organizations investigating US government actions in Latin America in order to bring evidence to Congress to have laws and policies changed. The hypocrisy of this story and escalation of events can be seen in comparison of human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Colombia, etc. where no condemnation or criticism has been pointed to by US government in the area of human rights abuses only military support in billions of dollars. Start by listening to Ecuadorean foreign minister call for mediation. March 20, 2015, March 11, 2015 and March 3, 2015 for stories analyzing the opinion listed by commentary editor above.

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