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A State Department That Can

Posted: 06/06/11 12:02 AM ET

With due respect to the United States Department of State and Secretary Clinton, in regards to economic sanctions leveled under CISADA on Venezuela and six other foreign entities. Among the affected countries, only Venezuela is a nation in abject poverty. Oil is its primary export and the exceptionally devastating impact upon its people should be of specific consideration. There has been a systemic barrage of misreporting and context-shifting within the U.S. media and espoused by many U.S. Representatives relative to Venezuela and its democratically elected President Hugo Chavez.

The American people have grown accustomed to hearing the Venezuelan president referred to as a dictator, not only by media representatives but by members of the leadership in both parties. This is a defamation, not only to President Chavez, but also to the majority of Venezuelan people, poor people who have elected him president time and time again. This is not a dictator supported by the wealthy classes, but rather, a president elected by the impoverished and at the service of the Venezuelan constitution, a document not unlike our own. He is a flamboyant, passionate leader. And while our own cultural and constitutional conditioning would lead us to serious concerns in the powers of his office, there must be an informed adjustment to give our analyses a context that may extend beyond our borders.

The current environment of passive U.S. citizen response provided by this lack of understanding and misleading information is one where the essential oversights of public opinion are effectively defaulted upon, and in exchange, a predisposition to accept U.S. intervention in Venezuela exists. Furthermore, lobbyists of the fringe right exploit a void of direct diplomatic communication between the United States and Venezuela, and inflame a division affecting both countries with enormously shared interests. It is upon the USG and the American people to carefully and publicly consider any economic intervention upon a foreign nation, in particular those plagued by poverty. The United States, and indeed, all capitalist nations, engage in largely unrestricted trade with numerous nations, both secular and theocratic, traditionally associated with social and political oppression, and indeed contributors (suspected or acknowledged) to nuclear proliferation. While it is noted that Iran is such a nation, and that it is due to Venezuela's oil trade with Iran (actual or alleged) that they have been listed, it should also be noted that an entity in the state of Israel has also been named among the seven sanctioned.

The potential for overreach of CISADA's "energy" classification may be reminiscent of restrictions and prohibitions on exports prohibited in pre-war Iraq, specifically when non-weaponized materials such as x-ray machines, entirely inadaptable to weaponization were characterized as "dual use" materials, the only significant result of that policy was to deprive sick Iraqi civilians of basic care. That it is assumed in the State Department's announcement, that by Venezuela supplying its single lifeline export to a country suspected of developing instruments of proliferation, therefore it is an action-worthy compromise of CISADA, risks precedent and abuse that must be scrutinized and balanced in full context and in full view. While the State Department has reported its investigations into overall impacts on oil markets, no such comprehensive study has been offered in balance with the human impact on countries sanctioned.

On this basis, the American people should call for a moratorium on the CISADA sanctions of Venezuela until such time as a congressional hearing may be convened and strategic benefits evidenced in balance with the historic effects of similar sanctions in other developing and impoverished nations. With the recent actions of mediation taken by Venezuela in collaboration with Colombia for the reintegration of Honduras into the OAS, President Chavez and Venezuela have demonstrated a will toward diplomatic harmony, and the sanctions themselves should serve to initiate high level interaction that has for too long suffered the prejudice of profile and anti-Venezuelan political lobbying.