Obama declares Venezuela 'a national security emergency', Venezuela hits back

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has slammed the US for hypocrisy.

US President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order regarding Venezuela on March 9 that escalated US attacks on Venezuela's left-wing government.

The order amounts to an act of aggression against Venezuela's sovereignty by declaring a “national emergency” based on claims the oil-rich South American nation threatens US national security due to alleged human rights violations and corruption.

The Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro condemned Obama's decree. Maduro said it was part of a bid to overthrow his elected government, which is heading a pro-poor revolution aimed at creating a “socialism for the 21st century” by redistributing wealth and promoting popular democracy.

Many Latin American governments have condemned the latest US sanctions, with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa leading the charge -- calling Obama's decree a "a bad joke".

Obama also ordered sanctions against seven Venezuelan officials, saying that they all would be banned from travelling to the United States and any and all assets and properties belonging to them would be frozen.

In a statement, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said: “We now have the tools to block their assets and their use of US financial systems.

“We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents. Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent.”

Earnest said Washington has consistently called on the Venezuelan government to release opposition members they claim to be unjustly jailed. He ignored evidence presented by the Venezuelan government about the role of these opposition members in organising violent protests to overthrow the government.

Maduro pointed out that Obama's executive order coincided with a failed coup attempt in Venezuela last month, which had links to US citizens.

“After we dismantled the coup attempt … [the US] decided to personally fulfill the task of ousting my government,” Maduro said.

The Venezuelan president said that, according to intelligence reports he had received in recent days, “many meetings were held between the Department of State and the White House” to discuss measures to be taken against his government.

Speaking from the Miraflores Palace, Maduro described the US measure as the most aggressive step yet taken against Venezuela. He said it was largely inspired by Washington's desperation and frustration at its inability to remove Venezuela's socialist government.

Maduro slammed Washington for hypocrisy, pointing out that the US is a far bigger threat to the world, saying: “You are the real threat, who trained and created Osama Bin Laden … you are the people who created al-Qaida.” Bin Laden was trained by the CIA during the late 1970s to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan.

He said that it was a double standard that the US president is focused on the human rights of Venezuelans, saying: “Defend the human rights of the Black US citizens being killed in US cities every day, Mr Obama.”

Maduro pointed out that the US has issued 105 statements on Venezuela over the past year, of which half explicitly supported opposition politicians.

The Venezuelan president reiterated previous calls he had publicly made to his US counterpart, urging him not to take the path of intervention that his predecessors took in Latin America.

“I've asked Mr Obama, how do you want to be remembered? Like Richard Nixon, who ousted Salvador Allende in Chile? Like President Bush, responsible for ousting President Chavez?

“Well President Obama, you already made your choice … you will be remembered like President Nixon.”

Maduro said a political agreement was brokered in December between opposition lawmakers and the government. But he said opposition lawmakers broke the agreement after they received a phone call from the US Embassy.

By then, Maduro said, Venezuelan intelligence “knew who had called and from where they had called, and in what language they spoke”.

The Venezuelan authorities were also monitoring a group of rogue officials, who they had tracked as a result of intelligence obtained from anonymous sources in contact with the US government officials.

“They were trying to re-edit the April 11, 2002 events,” said Maduro, highlighting the similarities between recent events and those leading to the failed coup against President Hugo Chavez in 2002.

Maduro also referred to the role of Carlos Osuna, believed to be the mastermind and financier of the coup. Osuna “is in New York, under protection of the US government,” he said.

He pointed out the historical parallels in Latin American history of similar attacks by US administrations against left-wing governments.

The rhetoric being used against Venezuela was, Maduro said, like that “used against Salvador Allende in Chile”, whose socialist government was overthrown in a 1973 US backed coup. He added it was also like that “against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala” in 1954 when the US helped oust Arbenz's progressive government.

The common discourse to justify overthrowing these elected left-wing governments, Maduro said, was accusations they had violating people's rights.

Maduro emphasised that the economic sabotage Venezuela is facing from private businesses repeats the same tactic used against Allende in Chile.

[Compiled from TeleSUR English.]

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