The Obama administration is facing criticism across Latin America for leveling new sanctions against Venezuela and declaring the country an "unusual and extraordinary threat to national security." On Saturday, foreign ministers of the 12-country Union of South American Nations called for a revocation of the sanctions. In a statement, the ministers said: "It constitutes an interventionist threat to sovereignty and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries." On Thursday, U.S. policy in Venezuela was also questioned during a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C. Representatives from Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and other nations all criticized the U.S. approach. We speak to Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, who took part in the Organization of American States meeting yesterday. Ecuador has offered to mediate dialogue between the United States and Venezuela.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Obama administration is facing criticism across South America for leveling new sanctions against Venezuela and declaring the country to be a, quote, "unusual and extraordinary threat to national security." On Saturday, foreign ministers of the 12-country Union of South American Nations called for a revocation of the sanctions. In a statement, the ministers said, "It constitutes an interventionist threat to sovereignty and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries."
On Thursday, U.S. policy in Venezuela was also questioned during a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington. Representatives from Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and other nations all criticized the U.S. approach. According to a report by Telesur, Breno Dias da Costa, Brazil’s OAS representative, said, quote, "Venezuelan issues should be resolved by the Venezuelan people without sanctions." José Miguel Insulza of Chile is secretary general of the Organization of American States.
SECRETARY GENERAL JOSÉ MIGUEL INSULZA: [translated] We all recognize the right of Venezuela—its people, its government, its political parties, its social organizations—to resolve its problems in crisis without outside interference, with full respect of its constitution and the human rights of all its citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Fitzpatrick, the interim U.S. permanent representative to the Organization of American States, denied the Obama administration was planning to stage another coup in Venezuela.
MICHAEL FITZPATRICK: We are not preparing a military invasion. We are not seeking to destabilize or topple the Maduro government in a coup d’état. We are not participating in an international conspiracy to hurt the Venezuelan economy or people. We are Venezuela’s largest trading partner. We simply want to prevent individual Venezuelans, who we believe have abused the human rights of other Venezuelans, from traveling to the United States or parking their money in our financial system.
AMY GOODMAN: Joining us here in New York is Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, who took part in the Organization of American States meeting yesterday. Ecuador has offered to mediate between the United States and Venezuela.
Ricardo Patiño, welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Can you respond to the U.S. calling Venezuela an extraordinary national security threat?
FOREIGN MINISTER RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] It doesn’t make any sense. It makes no sense whatsoever to think that Venezuela constitutes a threat to the United States. If there is a country that is a threat in the Americas, it’s the United States, because it has permanently invaded countries, societies in Latin America. It has created coups d’état. It has invaded countries, such as Grenada, the Dominican Republican, Panama. And it promoted dictatorships. Venezuela doesn’t have the minimal material possibility to constitute a threat to the United States, nor does it wish to be in that position. We have no desire or possibility to be a threat to the United States. What we want is to live in peace and to ask the government of the United States to let Latin America live in peace and democracy, as is happening at this time.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And can you tell us a little more about the offer of your government to mediate between the United States and Venezuela?
FOREIGN MINISTER RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] It’s really a request that the government of Venezuela has made that Ecuador, insofar as it is now president pro tem of CELAC, which is the Community of Latin American States, to coordinate with other forums in Latin America to give impetus to a dialogue with the United States. In a decision adopted by the Union of South American Nations last Saturday, which was a hard-hitting decision or clear decision by the 12 South African countries, we rejected the executive order by the U.S. government, and we asked that it be lifted. But we also called for a dialogue, because we see that the solution is not violence, the solution is to be found in dialogue. And we want to make it perfectly clear that Venezuela is not alone, and that as it is not a threat to the United States, Ecuador is not a threat, either, nor is Brazil a threat. And we ask the United States to respect the self-determination and sovereignty of the South American and Latin American people.
AMY GOODMAN: At a recent State Department briefing, the State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, surprised many by claiming, quote, "As a matter of long-standing policy, the United States does not support political transitions by nonconstitutional means." Your response?
FOREIGN MINISTER RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] It’s just a question of briefly reviewing the history of what the United States foreign policy has been. What happened with Iraq? What has happened with Afghanistan in the case of Iraq? There was a worldwide media show to show that there were weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration at that time knew that they did not exist. They killed thousands or hundreds of thousands of people. And it’s all been left in absolute impunity. They declared that Iraq constituted a threat to the United States, and after that, they invaded. That is why we are concerned about this definition. Now they say it’s just a formality, but it’s very serious for a country and for its president to say that another country constitutes a threat. It’s very serious because then one has to see what the consequences of such a declaration will be.
Plus, when they say that they don’t promote coups d’état and violent actions against our countries, well, all of the history of the 20th century shows just the opposite. Any time they have not liked a government, they have tried to figure out how to overthrow it, and they’ve done it on many locations. So, we regret that we cannot agree with these declarations.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And at the same time, though, that the United States is being so aggressive toward Venezuela, President Obama announced recently the normalization of—the beginning of normalization of relations with Cuba. I’m wondering your reaction to that and what the impact has been in Latin America.
FOREIGN MINISTER RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] We looked on this with great happiness. We considered this to be a triumph of the struggle and dignity of the people and government of Cuba, after putting up for more than 50 years with a totally illegal embargo that has had a negative impact on the lives of Cubans for so long. We saw this as a new vision of the United States, a more respectful relationship with the region. But, unfortunately, this happiness just lasted a few weeks, because all of a sudden there’s an unnecessary conflict, which is brought about in a unilateral manner by the government of the United States against Venezuela.
We had hoped that the Summit of the Americas, which is coming in just a few days—that’s going to be April 10th and 11th—in Panama, was going to be, as I put it, the summit of happiness, because it’s the first time in the 20 years of the Summits of the Americas that Cuba was going to enter. It was going to no longer be excluded. But we lament that just a few days before that summit, we have to put up with an aggression, because it is clearly an aggression by the government of the United States against our sister republic of Venezuela. And we call on and urge the government of the United States for us to work out problems in a friendly way through dialogue. And I would hope that before the summit it will be possible to have the two governments, United States and Venezuela, to engage in a dialogue such that the summit not reflect these issues of tension, but rather it should reflect the happiness because Cuba has now been brought into the summit.
AMY GOODMAN: What role does oil play, do you think, when it comes to Venezuela, the way the U.S. deals with Venezuela?
FOREIGN MINISTER RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Well, there are some other countries which in recent times have been invaded as a result of having control of oil or because of a concern about controlling oil. We see this in Iraq and in Libya. Let us not forget there is information that is not always as widely disseminated as it could be. Venezuela has the largest quantity of proven reserves, oil reserves, anywhere worldwide. So, unfortunately, this may be a reason for seeking to control that oil production and those oil reserves on the part of certain interests in the United States.