San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Bolivarian Revolution

Obama orders deeper Venezuela sanctions over abuses

WASHINGTON D.C. —  U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday ordered fresh sanctions against senior Venezuelan officials involved in cracking down on the opposition.

Venezuela responded angrily, recalling its envoy to Washington, Charge d’Affairs Maximilien Sánchez Arveláiz, for “consultations.”

Regional allies came to Venezuela’s defense.

Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino warned the South American bloc UNASUR will not allow “foreign intervention” or a coup in Venezuela.

Obama ordered the freezing of U.S. properties and bank accounts of seven officials, including the director general of the intelligence service and the director of the national police.

He also targeted Katherine Nayarith Haringhton Padrón, the prosecutor who charged Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma over an alleged coup plot.

“We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents,” the White House said in unveiling the executive order.

The measures implement and extend sanctions adopted by the U.S. Congress last year that the president himself enacted in December.

But a senior U.S. official stressed that the sanctions would have “no direct effect” on the Venezuelan oil sector, of which the U.S. is the biggest consumer.

“In terms of the impact it may have on the energy sector or the oil industry, there is no direct effect from these sanctions,” the Treasury Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“There is no additional impact or additional sanctions on any industry, individual or entity that is not not specifically named in the executive order, or that is not named by the Department of Treasury in the future.”

Worsening ties

The move is certain to worsen already fraught U.S.-Venezuela ties.

The two countries have lacked ambassadors in each other’s capitals since 2010, and are now locked in a bitter dispute over the size of their respective embassies.

Two years after the death of leftist firebrand Hugo Chávez, his hand-picked successor, President Nicolás Maduro has ramped up anti-U.S. rhetoric as the economy has worsened.

His government recently ordered the number of officials at the American embassy be reduced from 100 to 17 by March 17 and began requiring visas for U.S. travelers.

Patino, Ecuador’s top diplomat, backed Maduro after a meeting with his Brazilian and Colombian counterparts in Caracas with Venezuelan government officials and opposition leaders, in hopes of relaunching a dialogue that has been stalled since May.

“Insofar as President Nicolás Maduro is the president of all Venezuelans, elected in a democratic, transparent and clear manner, we will completely, head-on, with all our strength, oppose any attempt at destabilization,” Patino said.

“We will not allow foreign intervention, we will not allow coups.”

Ecuador, one of Venezuela’s main regional allies, is led by President Rafael Correa, a leading leftist figure in Latin America.

Most of those targeted for U.S. sanctions were accused of being involved with a 2014 crackdown on opposition protests that left more than 40 dead.

The White House on Monday called the charges against Caracas Mayor Ledezma, an important opposition figure, as “based on implausible — and in some cases fabricated — information.”

A senior U.S. administration official described the measures as a “first round of actions under this executive order.”

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USA is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. Go to any Large city in USA and you can see the classes rich and poor. They live in diffrent houses big and small. Drive diffrent cars Big and small or in the case of poor walk or take the bus. Live in diffrent areas south and north side. Most rich don´t understand food stamps or social programs to keep the elderly that need to surviving day to day. That is the problem. Capitalism is not working for the poor they get just enough to survive. The rich only care when the poor stand up for there rights. Is there any chance for real change? I’m not a Marxist in the sense that I don’t think Marxism has a very specific clinical answer to what ails us economically. I think Marx was a much better diagnostician than he was a clinician. He was good at figuring out what was wrong or what could be wrong with capitalism if it wasn’t attended to and much less credible when it comes to how you might solve that.
That may be the ultimate tragedy of capitalism in our time, that it has achieved its dominance without regard to a social compact, without being connected to any other metric for human progress.
In the USA they measure things by profit. We listen to the Wall Street analysts. They tell us what we’re supposed to do every quarter. Did you make your number? Did you not make your number? Do you want your bonus? Do you not want your bonus?
And that notion that capital is the metric, that profit is the metric by which we’re going to measure the health of our society is one of the fundamental mistakes of the last 30 years. I would date it in my country to about 1980 exactly, and it has triumphed.
Capitalism stomped the hell out of Marxism by the end of the 20th century and was predominant in all respects, but the great irony of it is that the only thing that actually works is not ideological, it is impure, has elements of both arguments and never actually achieves any kind of partisan or philosophical perfection. But Capitalism also stomped out any right for the poor to get out of hole that they are in. Poor never really get a chance to understand Capitalism they only understand it by just getting enough to survive.
It’s pragmatic, it includes the best aspects of socialistic thought and of free-market capitalism and it works because we don’t let it work entirely. And that’s a hard idea to think – that there isn’t one single silver bullet that gets us out of the mess we’ve dug for ourselves. But man, we’ve dug a mess.

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Bruce Hubert

You psycho babble about the poor and capitalism like a freshman in college. Poverty in the USA comes from the breakdown of the family unit and irresponsible parenting not from a lack of government programs.

70 % of all black children in the USA are born to single unwed mothers. I do not think a wall street executive is causing this dysfunctional behavior. Society can have a safety net but when the numbers get so dysfunctional it is overwhelming.

In Costa Rica according to La Nacion 20 % of all children are born to a teenage mother. is this due to Costa Rican capitalism? No it is a culture of poverty. I am sure the statistics are even worse in Honduras , and El Salvador.

In the USA people are divided by culture, values , work ethic and family. Yes some people are more fortunate to have good parents., maybe we should have a good parent tax and punish people who come from good families.

Marx fundamental flaw was that he assumed all people are equal and that is not true. Some people are smarter,harder working and more disciplined. Some people make good decisions and some make bad ones. You reap what you sow.

There will always be poverty until the culture of poverty is eradicated, no government program will ever solve this problem. Social scientists have been talking about this problem for 50 years and nothing has changed.

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Ken Morris

Not so fast, Bruce, especially on the family stuff. Generally single-parenting is an effect of poverty rather than its cause. Darn near every study finds that poor men marry at far lower rates than more affluent men and that the marriages of the poor break up more often than those of the affluent. Indeed, lots of evidence shows that poor women sensibly don’t want a deadbeat husband/father around if he’s unable to contribute, which many aren’t. Sure, single parents struggle financially and are disproportionately poor, but the reality is that they were poor to start with and marriage wouldn’t change this.

On teenage mothers, as small point, the US had the highest rate of teenage mothers during the 1950s. The difference is that the teenage mothers were then more likely to be married. What’s going on in Costa Rica is not that teenage girls are more likely to become pregnant but that they are less likely to marry the fathers of their children. And they are less likely to marry because the guys are poor and can’t support them. For some, the higher earnings to be made in the sex industry, fueled in part by foreign men, especially dissuade them from marrying the fathers of their children.

Generally in life, as Marx observed, the economy is causal and the rest of the stuff, like the family, is an effect.

Mind, today’s not my day to defend Marx, about whom I have reservations, but I also don’t know where you got your idea that Marx assumed that everybody is equal. That assumption ain’t in Marx. He did think that it wasn’t super that the owners of businesses made the “surplus value” that the workers produced, but this was not an assumption of equality. It was rather an argument for reaping the rewards for what you produce rather than being cheated out of them. Heck, if memory serves, Marx even used the term “social scum” for what we would today call the underclass. He was not a feel-good liberal, that’s for sure.

Neither was he even a Marxist. (One of his more famous puzzling remarks was, “I am not a Marxist.”) Whether or what kind of communist he even was is iffy. However, insofar as he was a communist and subscribed to the dictum, “From each according to his ability and to each according to his need,” that too is not an assumption of equality. It rather assumes that people have unequal abilities and unequal needs. The idea is rather that people of greater ability are obligated to contribute more than those of lesser ability, while those of greater need ought to get more to satisfy their needs than those with fewer needs. Nobody has to accept this ethical standard for the good society, but nobody should misconstrue it as an assumption that people are equal.

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Good points Bruce, I come from a middle income family in the states and in my youth I was homeless for a period of time. While homeless I secured a job as a clerk at a local gas station. I constructed a home in the woods and lived there until I was able to afford better. I now am a Licensed Marine Engineer living alot better than my old shack in the woods. I too believe that poverty will never be overcome. It is actually a necessary part of life. We will never all be equal. If we were there would be social collapse. Who would work at a gas station if everyone was equal? That brings me to my second problem. Most unemployed people in the United States put a higher value on themselves than they are actually worth and are unwilling to start at the bottom and fight your way to the top.However, It doesn’t help that Minimum wages are extremely low and Government aid pays more than working. Today’s minimum wage is not much more today than it was when I was homeless. In 20 Years it has only gone up 3$.

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So President of USA shows he is rightwing now and is using Richard Nixon policy in Latin America. I guess if you punish everyone like Russia and Venezuela and even Canada now you show your in control. I just heard on CBC Canada that Obama said he hates Canada´s Oil Industry and Mining Industry i guess soon war with Canada or just cut off trade. I guess the US goverment will never learn to stay out of other countries business and just worry about US citizens. God bless Edward Snowdon he was right about everything the US agenda is overthrow goverments by any means.

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Ken Morris

Ben, I agree with you that this is a potential US overreaction. However, it is only a potential at this point. Obama is setting the policy stage to be able to do something if he wants to, but he’s not doing much yet.

More importantly, Maduro has forced Obama’s hand by concocting one after another accusation of US interference, even US-led assassination plots against him. Come on, this isn’t happening. Sorry, the US doesn’t even care enough about Venezuela to do this kind of thing, and Obama certainly doesn’t care enough. But when Maduro keeps making his accusations, even Obama is going to react, just to lay the policy groundwork for action if he needs to take it.

The problem here is Maduro, who really needs to resign. Look, I’m a leftist and could live with Chávez, as also could Obama, but Chávez retained majority public support in Venezuela. Maduro’s popular support is hovering around the 20% range, way too low to govern effectively, and the country is in crisis. Instead of achieving anything, Maduro is Nixon-like resorting to authoritarian tricks in order to maintain his own power.

I honestly don’t know what the US can or should do. I don’t think it can do much, and to quote Obama’s approach to foreign policy, the main goal is “not to do the wrong thing,” which alas the US has often done historically. However, let’s wait until the US does the “wrong thing” before we criticize. Right now Venezuela has a serious problem, and his name is Maduro. It’s not a left/right thing but him and his henchmen.

The ideal solution is for Maduro to resign, free and fair elections to be held, and for a leftist or moderate who isn’t as authoritarian to be elected in his place. What to do until that happens is the big question, and I’m not sure that Obama can be faulted for setting the policy stage to do something, should there be something that the US can do without doing the “wrong thing.”

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Donald Waltz

Ben, what you described is Costa Rica to the tee. I would guess the only big city you have ever been to was San Jose. Go back to smoking your ganja and take a nap

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First thing Don i have lived in Chicago and New York and saw the poverty in these cities i carry two passport and have residence in Costa Rica and Panama i know Costa Rica very well and understand Latin America better than most i saw the poverty in Venezuela before President Chavez got into power and saw no doctors and rich stealing everything. Costa Rica is the same in many ways like Venezuela and the US has become one of the most two sided place in the world. If the US goverment could just stay out of way life would be so much better for the poor.

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