The following is a letter to President Obama written by Noam Chomsky, Eva Golinger, and Miguel Tinker-Salas, and endorsed by the Quixote Center among other organizations and prominent individuals.
Dear Mr. President:
We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, met your December 17, 2014 joint announcement with President Raul Castro of steps to normalize relations with Cuba with cautious optimism. For decades the US has been isolated in its policy on Cuba, both from the rest of the hemisphere and the rest of the world. For the 23rd year in a row, the UN General Assembly voted last October (188-2) to condemn the US embargo of Cuba.
The UN called on the US to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and regulations which violate the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction, and the freedom of trade and navigation.
We were pleased that the US was finally taking steps to come into compliance with international law. Yet our optimism turned to renewed concern the following day, December 18, when you signed a sanctions bill against Venezuela which appears to perpetuate the same failed policy toward Venezuela that you had just rejected toward Cuba. You hardened that policy on March 9 when you issued an executive order 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." This action also verified that the US is stepping up its support for regime change in Caracas.
What is US hemispheric policy given this belligerent stance toward Venezuelan democracy? That is the question being asked by the world media and particularly by the sovereign States and multinational institutions of Latin America and the Caribbean. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which represents every country in South America, said your executive order constitutes a "threat of interference" against Venezuela's sovereignty and calls on you to revoke the order. While politics in Venezuela is polarized and economic disruption caused primarily by the falling price of oil have caused long lines and falling poll numbers for President Nicolas Maduro, we see nothing that could conceivably be described as an "extraordinary threat" to the US or even to Venezuela's closest neighbors. We note that Colombia, the USâ€™s closest ally in South America and even the Venezuelan opposition have rejected US sanctions.
Compared to Mexico and Honduras where state violence is endemic and the rule of law tenuous at best, Venezuela is not at all outside the norm among nations. Venezuela is not at war with any nation, does not have military bases outside its borders, and is helping to mediate an end to the war in Colombia; it is a champion of peace in the region. To call it a national security threat to the US diminishes the credibility of your administration in the eyes of the world.
To those who know the dynamics in democratic Venezuela, this US policy stance is dangerous and provocative. To set the record straight, the Venezuelan government is democratically elected. Presidents Chavez and Maduro were both elected in what former President Jimmy Carter declared to be the best election process in the world. (The Carter Center monitors and reports on elections worldwide.) Your executive declaration, however, is likely to be taken as a green light to the most hard line and anti-democratic forces in the country to continue to commit anti-government violence.
We call on you, President Obama, to rescind your executive order naming Venezuela a US national security threat. We call on you to stop interfering through funding and reckless public statements in Venezuela's own democratic processes. And most of all, we encourage you to show to our Latin American neighbors that the US can relate to them in peace and with respect for their sovereignty.
Noam Chomsky, MIT
Eva Golinger, Human Rights lawyer and author
Miguel Tinker-Salas, Ph.D., Pomona College*