Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Venezuela/US: Washington Snaps Back at Caracas with Asset Freezes, Travel Restrictions

According to The Associated Press, amid escalating tensions with Socialist Venezuela, the US State Department on Wednesday (July 30) announced new travel restrictions against Venezuelan officials believed to have committed human rights abuses during a spring crackdown on anti-government protests.

In announcing the visa restrictions, the Department cited the months-long street protest movement that has left dozens of people dead. It said the Venezuelan government had responded in many instances with "arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force."

The Department declined to publicly identify officials who will be subject to the travel ban, citing confidentiality rules surrounding visa processing.

The action, it said, is "directed at individuals responsible for human rights violations and not at the Venezuelan nation or its people."
COMMENT: On Sunday (July 27), Venezuela secured the release of a powerful Venezuelan general who had been detained last week in Aruba at the request of US authorities. 

Hugo Carvajal, former head of military intelligence, is accused of using his high-level position to protect drug traffickers, and was expected to face extradition.

Instead, after initially arresting him, Aruba released Carvajal back to a hero's welcome in Caracas. The State Department on Monday (July 28) charged Venezuela with using threats against the Dutch Caribbean territory to circumvent international justice, a charge Venezuelan officials emphatically deny.

Congress has been debating two bills that would sanction Venezuelan officials charged with human rights abuses by banning visas and freezing their assets.

After months of slow progress, one of the two bills surmounted a significant hurdle this week when a Republican senator dropped his objection, citing outrage over the Carvajal release.