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Cuba Blasts US Over Venezuela Sanctions

by VOA News March 10, 2015

New U.S. sanctions on Venezuela drew fire Tuesday from Cuba, in the first public clash between the U.S. and Cuba since the two nations announced in December they would begin talks on restoring diplomatic ties.

In an official statement published by the state-run Granma newspaper, Cuba labeled U.S. President Barack Obama's executive order 'arbitrary and aggressive.'

The order, announced Monday, targets seven senior Venezuelan officials who the United States says violated human rights and engaged in public acts of corruption. Those include the head of Venezuela's intelligence service and the director of its national police.

In its statement Tuesday, the Cuban government said it reiterates its 'unconditional support' for Venezuela. The two nations have long been each other's closest allies.

The statement criticized President Obama's categorization of Venezuela as a threat to U.S. national security, saying 'no one has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of a sovereign state or to declare, without foundation, a nation a threat to national security.'

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro also lashed out at the order, calling it 'unjust' and 'harmful.'

A White House statement on the sanctions Monday called on Venezuela to release all political prisoners, including dozens of students, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and mayors Daniel Ceballos of San Cristobal and Antonio Ledezma of Caracas.

'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,'' said the statement.

The move comes as tensions between the two nations intensify. Last week, Caracas ordered Washington to reduce the number of officials at the U.S. embassy from 100 to 17 and imposed a visa requirement for American tourists.

The U.S. Treasury Department said the sanctions will serve 'to protect the U.S. financial system from the illicit financial flows from public corruption in Venezuela.'

'Corrupt actions by Venezuelan government officials deprive Venezeula of needed economic resources that could be invested in the Venezuelan people and used to spur economic growth,' said the Treasury Department statement.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro often criticizes the United States for what he says is meddling in his country's affairs. The two countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010.

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