Friday, September 12, 2008

US Sanctions Venezuela Officials; Envoy Sent Home in Response to Bolivian Crisis

US sanctions Venezuela officials

The US Treasury has announced sanctions on two senior Venezuelan officials it accuses of aiding Colombian rebels, in an escalating diplomatic row.

The US said Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios and Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva were "materially assisting the [Farc rebels'] narcotics trafficking".

The move comes as US officials revealed plans to expel Venezuela's ambassador after Caracas expelled the US envoy.

The US has also engaged in tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions with Bolivia.

On Thursday, President Hugo Chavez gave US ambassador Patrick Duddy 72 hours to leave Caracas, telling him: "Go to hell 100 times."

Mr Chavez said the move was in solidarity with his ally Bolivia, which also kicked out its US envoy after accusing him of inciting violent protests against President Evo Morales.

BBC South America correspondent Daniel Schweimler says the spat between oil-exporting Venezuela and the US is in neither side's interest.

The US is a politically influential leading trade partner and a major aid donor to Latin America, so few in the region will be happy relations have plummeted to this new low, says our correspondent.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/09/12 14:27:53 GMT

VIO Venezuela News and Action


With little more than a month past since Bolivian President Evo Morales won a recall referendum with 67% of the vote, Bolivia's secessionist opposition has taken to the streets beginning in Santa Cruz, one of the wealthiest regions of the country.

Three days of mayhem and violence have wracked the city of Santa Cruz resulting in at least 8 deaths so far, spurred on by calls broadcast over the national media to join in "civil disobedience" against the government. Journalists considered sympathetic to the government have also been harassed and injured.

Opposition mobs ransacked the recently nationalized telephone office, and took control of the internal revenue and agrarian reform offices.

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza quickly called for the violent actions of opposition groups to end. Calls to dialogue with the government were issued and the destruction and illegal seizures of government buildings, a human rights NGO, and a gas pipeline were condemned.

The violence was not merely symbolic, but also carried economic consequences; damage to the pipeline slowed exports to Brazil, and repairs to the pipeline could cost an estimated $100 million.

This Wednesday, September 10th President Morales declared US Ambassador to Bolivia, Phillip Goldberg, persona non grata and asked him to leave the country. The Bolivian government stated that he was involved with the opposition and interference would not be tolerated. He had met with opposition leaders just last week. Goldberg, known as "the Ambassador of Ethnic Cleansing" for his previous role as Special Assistant to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, is one of the architects of the breakup of Yugoslavia.

He also promoted the separation of Serbia and Montenegro, and helped foment conflict between Serbian and Albanian forces in Kosovo. It would seem that Goldberg has a particular knack for promoting racial and ethnic divisions, and that doing so has been central to his political career.

Among Goldberg's closest friends are Croatian businessmen in Santa Cruz, who happen to be leaders of the opposition's "Nación Camba" movement and the local "Civic Committee," one of the main proponents of destabilization in Bolivia. Last night, the Bush administration answered back and declared Bolivia's Ambassador to the US, Gustavo Guzman, persona non grata.

In response to the turmoil, President Evo Morales has called for non-violence and ordered the police and military not to use force against the opposition. Instead, the government hopes to uphold the rule of law and wait for opposition actors to abide by calls from the international community to put down their weapons and talk with the government. So far, this has not happened. Opposition congress members have threatened more violence if Morales continues moving forward with the new constitution.


After hearing the news that Bolivia's Ambassador to the US would be expelled for his very likely role in the destabilization of that country, Venezuela made the decision to show its solidarity with Bolivia by expelling Patrick Duddy, the US Ambassador to Venezuela. President Chavez also recalled his Ambassador in the US, Bernardo Alvarez, to Venezuela for consultation. Read the full story here.

Considering the failed coup attempt lived by Venezuelans in April 2002, it is not surprising that Venezuela would take this posture. Many of the same actors seem to be at play in Bolivia today. Venezuela is said to be the first country to have suffered a media coup, one that also encouraged violent attacks on pro-government supporters and the poor.

It has also been well documented that the US government was openly supportive of coup plotters and met with them prior to their illegal attempts to take power.

This all comes as today, Venezuela uncovered a plot by retired generals to assassinate him. Read more about this story here.


If you would like to make sure that democracy is respected and that the rule of law is restored in Bolivia call your members of Congress and ask them to condemn the violent actions of the opposition and support the democratically elected President in his calls for dialogue.

Unfortunately, Chair of the Western Subcommittee in the House of Representatives, Eliot Engel, has condemned the actions of Morales rather than the opposition.

Let your members know that he got it wrong!

Call (202)224-3121 and ask for your senators' and/or representative's office!

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