Letter urging Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to help support dialogue and end murderous sanctions in Venezuela
Dear Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,
We are deeply grateful for your support of HR1004, prohibiting US military intervention in Venezuela without congressional authorization, and for signing on to representative Khanna’s letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “rejecting threats of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela, supporting diplomatic dialogue to resolve the political crisis there and opposing broad economic sanctions that hurt ordinary Venezuelans.” We also appreciated you expressing your legitimate and crucial concerns regarding US interventionism in Venezuela in March of this year.
However, we were troubled by your May 2 interview in National Review, in which you stated that you would defer to Democratic leadership on the issue of whether to support self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó. As you may not have been aware at the time, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and the House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, have backed the Trump administration’s policy of supporting Guaidó, which is closely linked to US government efforts to promote an internal military coup d’état in Venezuela. If Nancy Pelosi were, as she claims, concerned about the suffering of the Venezuelan people, she would call for an end to the murderous sanctions being imposed on them and would support dialogue rather than military coups. Instead, she has been aligned with the likes of John Bolton and Elliott Abrams in their effort to promote regime change at any cost in Venezuela. It appears that she is motivated, at least in part, by the belief – held by some Democratic strategists – that taking a hard line on Venezuela is critical to winning the state of Florida in the 2020 elections.
We’re sad but not surprised that Nancy Pelosi would take this position on Venezuela, but we are disappointed that you should wish to defer to her on this issue.
Human lives are at stake. As you know, Venezuela is currently suffering a devastating economic and political crisis that has left millions in poverty, with insufficient access to basic goods and services and in a state of perpetual insecurity. Internal political strife has recently come to a head as Guaidó, on April 30, held an early morning press conference with dissident military officers and called for a national uprising. Vice President Pence, John Bolton and other US officials made statements in support of this coup attempt, as did Nancy Pelosi. Fortunately, the coup didn’t succeed due to lack of support from the military and much of the population who voted in the current government last year, a bloodbath was averted, and soon afterwards Venezuelan opposition leaders defied the Trump administration and sat down with representatives of the Maduro government for a first round of negotiations sponsored by the government of Norway.
The government of the United States has played a substantial role in Venezuela’s crisis. In addition to making threats of military intervention and supporting efforts by Guaidó and other extreme elements of the Venezuelan opposition to foment a coup, the Trump administration has imposed crippling financial sanctions and sanctions against the country’s vital oil sector. These latter sanctions effectively make it illegal for US companies to import Venezuelan oil to the United States, which was, until then, Venezuela’s number one client. Given that Venezuela depends so heavily on oil exports to provide the necessary foreign exchange for importing food, medicine and other basic goods, the US government’s sanctions against the country’s oil sector directly harm the Venezuelan people, whose economic security grows more precarious by the week. The various economic sanctions in place since 2017 have caused over 40,000 deaths in Venezuela since 2017, according to a recent study authored by economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.* They are also illegal according to international law and the UN charter, which dictate that sanctions must be decided by the UN security council and that unilateral coercive measures are illegal. Additionally, threats of war and collective punishment of an entire population are illegal by the Geneva convention.
You have shown great strength and determination in the fight against inequality and injustice and we admire you for that. We earnestly hope that you will systematically apply those same values in the domain of foreign policy, even when that may lead to potential disagreements with Democratic leadership. In that spirit, we hope that in the future you will refrain from taking sides, as Nancy Pelosi has done, in the internal conflict in Venezuela and call for continued dialogue between both camps, as Mexico, Uruguay, Norway, Switzerland, the UN Secretary General and the Vatican have done. We also hope that you will do everything in your ability to put an end to the administration’s deadly sanctions, which amount to economic warfare against the citizens of Venezuela. We urge you to introduce legislation to lift these sanctions in tandem with your progressive colleagues in the house.
Negotiation and diplomacy, rather than sanctions and threats, are the only ways to avoid a serious armed conflict and an intensifying human rights crisis in Venezuela. This is not an issue that can be ignored or glossed over, and a status quo approach will only further perpetuate endless cycles of US interventionism and oppression for the sake of profits. As a great 19th-century thinker once said: “A people which oppresses another cannot emancipate itself.”
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