OAS chief says he backs tar­geted sanc­tions against Venezuela

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - International Business -

THE leader of the West­ern Hemi­sphere’s largest diplo­matic body said Wed­nes­day he backs tar­geted sanc­tions against high-rank­ing Venezue­lan of­fi­cials re­spon­si­ble for the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic tur­moil grip­ping the South Amer­i­can na­tion.

But Luis Al­ma­gro, the sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States, cau­tioned a con­gres­sional over­sight panel against sweep­ing eco­nomic penal­ties that could worsen the suf­fer­ing of Venezue­lan cit­i­zens. He de­scribed Venezuela as the most cor­rupt coun­try on that con­ti­nent.

“The only ac­tion of the gov­ern­ment we see th­ese days is re­pres­sion,” Al­ma­gro told the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions sub­com­mit­tee on the West­ern Hemi­sphere and transna­tional crime. “The sce­nar­ios that we see are pretty ugly for Venezuela.”

Al­ma­gro, as part of bleak as­sess­ment of Venezuela, also ques­tioned whether sanc­tions would suc­ceed in hav­ing their de­sired ef­fect, which is to force Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro and his sup­port­ers to make dras­tic changes. Sanc­tions helped push South Africa to abol­ish apartheid in the early 1990s, he said, but the coun­try was com­mit­ted to end­ing racial seg­re­ga­tion. He cited Cuba as an ex­am­ple of coun­try that’s re­sisted ex­ter­nal pres­sure to em­brace democ­racy.

“There is no way to push a dic­ta­tor­ship down from abroad,” he said. “So sanc­tions may work or may not work. It de­pends on the in­ter­nal pres­sure in the coun­try.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump threat­ened ear­lier this week to take un­spec­i­fied “eco­nomic ac­tions” if Maduro presses ahead with a July 30 vote on a con­stituent assem­bly to re­tool the con­sti­tu­tion. Maduro’s so­cial­ist sup­port­ers want the assem­bly to grant him more power over the few in­sti­tu­tions still out­side the con­trol of his rul­ing party.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials also told re­porters Tues­day that they were con­sid­er­ing a wide range of sanc­tions on Venezuela, in­clud­ing cuts in oil im­ports. Trump has im­posed travel bans and has frozen the as­sets of high-rank­ing of­fi­cials in re­cent weeks, but re­frained from broad sanc­tions against Venezuela that could deepen its eco­nomic cri­sis.

The oil-rich na­tion was once one of Latin Amer­ica’s most pros­per­ous, but it has been plunged into chaos as petroleum prices plum­met, na­tion­al­ized farms and fac­to­ries halt pro­duc­tion and cor­rup­tion runs ram­pant.

Venezuela’s op­po­si­tion said that more than 7.5 mil­lion peo­ple voted against the con­sti­tu­tional assem­bly at un­of­fi­cial bal­lot boxes set up na­tion­wide and in ex­pa­tri­ate com­mu­ni­ties Sun­day.

Al­ma­gro said that more than 100 peo­ple have been killed and thou­sands more have been in­jured in Venezuela since a wave of protests be­gan in April. Of those killed, more than 30 were un­der the age of 21, he said. More than 450 in­ves­ti­ga­tions into hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions have been opened, ac­cord­ing to Al­ma­gro, and there are 444 po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers in Venezuela. – AP

Venezuela’s Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro ( left) talks with De­fense Min­is­ter Vladimir Padrino Lopez dur­ing Army Day cel­e­bra­tions in Cara­cas. Photo: AP

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