Venezuela - US Relations - Obama
Venezuela and the U.S. returned the ambassadors to their posts in June and July 2009, respectively, after an unusual agreement by each country to declare without effect the “persona non grata” designations. On December 20, 2010 the Venezuelan Government revoked agrement for Ambassador-designate Larry Palmer, which had been issued in May, and on December 27, the United States revoked the diplomatic visa of Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez. Notwithstanding tensions in the bilateral relationship, the United States continues to seek constructive engagement with the Venezuelan Government, focusing on areas where cooperation is in both nations’ interest. Examples of such overlapping interests include cooperation in confronting narcotics trafficking and terrorism, as well as the commercial relationship.
In May 2011, the Secretary of State decided to impose sanctions on PDVSA for delivering at least three cargoes of reformate, a blending component for gasoline, to Iran between December 2010 and March 2011. The sanctions were imposed under the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, as amended by the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) of 2010. They prohibit PDVSA from competing for U.S. Government contracts, securing financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and obtaining export licenses.
The Venezuelan ambassador to the United States had his visa revoked in December 27, 2010, after the Venezuelan president withdrew his approval of the diplomat nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, and both countries are represented by a Charge d’ Affaires. In June 2011, Venezuela was listed as Tier 3 in the State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report. Tier 3 status indicates that a country does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
Despite tensions in the relationship, both countries had limited bilateral counternarcotics cooperation, and the US government continues to seek constructive engagement with the Venezuelan government, focusing on areas of mutual interest. Examples of such overlapping interests include counternarcotics, counterterrorism, commerce, and energy. Approximately 18,000 US citizens living in Venezuela have registered with the US Embassy, an estimated three-quarters of them residing in the Caracas area. An estimated 13,000 US tourists visit Venezuela annually. About 500 US companies are represented in the country.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused US Charge d'Affaires Kelly Keiderling and two other US officials of conspiring with the South American nation's political opposition when he announced their expulsion 30 September 2013. Keiderling ranks as the top US diplomat in Venezuela since the two countries have not had ambassadors in each other's capitals since 2010. On 01 October 2013 the United States expelled Venezuela's top diplomat and two others, after Venezuela kicked out the three US diplomats it accused of plotting sabotage. The Caracas government criticized the US response, saying the Venezuelan diplomats had not been meeting with groups opposed to US President Barack Obama.
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro declared three consular officers personae non gratae 17 February 2014 due to suspected conspiracy with the conservative opposition. Foreign Minister Elias Jaua declared that the Venezuelan government will not accept any threat from any government, including the United States. He said that the U.S. government intends to reactivate an international media campaign to justify their intentions to militarily intervene Venezuela, as they have done in countries such as Syria, Libya and Ukraine.
Jen Psaki, Department Spokesperson, said "Our Consular Officers were conducting normal outreach activities at universities on student visas, which is something we do around the world as a way to improve the accessibility and transparency of the visa process... These efforts reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the Venezuelan Government to deal with the grave situation it faces."
The State Department said 03 March 2015 it will respond through "diplomatic channels" to Venezuela's demand that it cut the number of staffers at the U.S. embassy in Caracas. As ties between the U.S. and Venezuela worsen, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf called Caracas' charge that the United States is trying to undermine the government "baseless." Venezuela had given Washington two weeks to reduce embassy staff from 100 to 17, the number of diplomats Venezuela said it had in the US.
President Obama on 09 March 2015 issued a new Executive Order (E.O.) declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela. The targeted sanctions in the E.O. implement the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, which the President signed on December 18, 2014, and also went beyond the requirements of this legislation.
Tensions between the United States and Venezuela intensified 09 March 2015 over new US sanctions, with the move also drawing fire from Venezuela's Latin American allies. The United States said the officials targeted in the order violated human rights and engaged in public acts of corruption. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who criticized the measures against seven Venezuelan officials as "unjust" and "harmful" after they were announced Monday, sought special legislative powers to confront what he labeled US imperialism.
At the Americas Summit in Panama, US President Barack Obama met 11 April 2015 with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who wanted the US to lift sanctions recently slapped on seven senior Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses tied to anti-government protests last year in Venezuela. The Venezuelan president described his meeting with Obama as "frank" and "serious." He said after meeting with Obama that there was now a "possibility" of exploring "a path to relations with respect, which is fundamental."
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said 17 May 2016 that right-wing leaders in South America were generating chaos in order to pave the way for a US intervention. A new Plan Condor, similar to the one that took place in the 1970s and 1980s, is being implemented against progressive governments in Latin America and the Caribbean region, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said during a press conference.
“The campaign against Venezuela is generating violence and chaos that is allowing an intervention by (the) United States government,” Maduro said during a meeting with international media outlets in Caracas. He added that the objective of the leaders of the right is to generate disturbance and violence “in order to create the credibility and strength for an intervention plan.”
Emails leaked by WikiLeaks in July 2016 showed that during her tenure as US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton asked the then-assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, how "to rein in Chavez." Valenzuela alluded to reaching out to other regional partners to help undermine Chavez: "We need to carefully consider the consequences of publicly confronting him but ought to look at opportunities for others in the region to help." The leaked emails confirmed a continuing trend of US covert intervention toward Venezuela and perceived leftist governments throughout Latin America generally, such as Cuba and Ecuador. WikiLeaks also exposed a 2006 US embassy strategy toward the then democratically elected President Chavez, saying that "creative US outreach to Chavez's regional partners will drive a wedge between him and them."
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