August 8th 2019. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has written Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission at the European Union, to express their grave concern that the EU’s policy towards Venezuela isn’t made of stern enough stuff.
In the letter to Mrs. Mogherini, Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged that the EU should elevate its levels of economic pressure to match that of the U.S. and Canada.
“We write to express our grave concern about the situation in Venezuela, where the Maduro regime’s growing repression is fueling a deepening humanitarian crisis. We urge the European Union to align its sanctions regime with that of the United States and Canada to make it clear to Maduro and his accomplices that they must allow for the restoration of the democratic order in Venezuela,” wrote the senators.
The letter was mailed 3 days after President Trump increased economic pressure from a host of sanctions to a complete embargo like the one enforced on neighboring Cuba for so many years. You can view the letter in its entirety here.
Mogherini got it wrong
Mogherini has been criticized for her denouncement of the Maduro regime before.
In an EU declaration by the High Representative in May of 2018, she described the Venezuelan presidential elections as having “major obstacles to the participation of opposition political parties and their leaders, an unbalanced composition of the National Electoral Council, biased electoral conditions, numerous reported irregularities during the Election Day, including vote buying…”
However shortly thereafter, Mogherini received a letter inscribed by a team of 100 international election observers condemning her statements as “fabrications of the most disgraceful kind, based on hearsay and not on evidence,” and that they were “unworthy of the EU”.
However neither the United States, nor her allies in Europe have paid too much attention to the 100-strong team of “senior politicians, academics, election officials, journalists and civil servants from many different nations including: Spain, UK, Northern Ireland, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Honduras, Italy, several Caribbean countries, South Africa, Tunisia, China, Russia, and the United States,” who penned the critical letter which declared free and fair elections.
Many of the West’s most powerful nations still recognize National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as the Interim President of Venezuela.
It is notable how the United States are pursuing the abdication of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro in roundabout and in some cases even hypocritical ways.
In the Senate committee’s letter to Mogherini, they state that “the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recently released a report confirming testimony by local human rights organizations, such as Foro Penal Venezolano and Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia, detailing the extent of the Maduro regime’s involvement in gross violations of human rights”.
They continue to invoke human rights violations in the next paragraph: “likewise, the Maduro regime’s economic policies and failure to address an acute humanitarian crisis have worsened living conditions for Venezuelans and are fueling a regional refugee crisis”.
However the conduct of the last two American presidential administrations towards Venezuela has been described as a gross violation of human rights before by the very organization the Committee’s letter invokes to ascribe validity to their concerns: The UN and the UN Human Rights Council.
On July 15th, the 41st session of the United Nations Council on Human Rights adopted a resolution denouncing the widespread use of economic sanctions by the United States. The resolution was introduced by Venezuela and Palestine on behalf of the Movement of Non-aligned Countries (NAM) and received 28 votes in favor and 14 against with 5 abstentions.
Moreover, an economist for the UN, Jeffery Sachs reported that the United States’ sanctions on Venezuela “fit the category of collective punishment” and are violations of both the Hague and Vienna Conferences on human rights to which she is a signature. Sachs adds later in the report that the dramatic collapse of Venezuela’s economy from U.S. sanctions has likely caused the deaths of 40,000 people due to starvation and deprivation.
Whether or not the United States, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or President Trump care all that much about what the UN or the UN Council on Human Rights thinks, they are still using the legitimacy of the international body as means to ascribe validity to their request for greater economic pressure on Venezuela.
Another example of United States hypocrisy in their heavy-handed approach towards Venezuela is the condemning of socialist economic policies as creating an acute humanitarian crisis when the US, under both the Trump and Obama administrations, have been content to let the far worse humanitarian crisis in Yemen carry on for four years when it could be ended in a week.
As it is the United States’ regional allies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE who are prosecuting the Yemenis, a stance by the US that no more weapons and regional protection would be afforded to them if they continued to pursue the war which has led to the deaths of over 200,000 people, many by starvation and cholera outbreaks, would likely be all that is needed to end the disastrous conflict.
For Federica Mogherini to acquiesce to this American call to arms would once again fly directly in the face of international opinions on the situation in Venezuela.
In going forward she might do well to remember the scalding report she received from the election observers before replying to this request for engagement from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lest her reputation as an authority in foreign affairs, as well as the life of the average Venezuelan, suffer further injury.