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White House Seeks to Soothe Relations With Venezuela
A White House official said Tuesday that Venezuela was not a threat to the national security of the United States, backing off language in an executive order that had inflamed relations with the South American nation and drawn criticism from other countries in the region.
The comments came as President Obama prepared to leave for a trip to the Caribbean and Latin America that will include a meeting of heads of state from the hemisphere.
"The United States does not believe that Venezuela poses some threat to our national security," said Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, during a telephone call with reporters to discuss the president's trip.
He was referring to an executive order signed by Mr. Obama last month that called for economic sanctions against seven Venezuelan officials who the United States said were involved in human rights abuses or violations of due process.
The executive order said that Venezuela was a threat to national security and that it constituted a national emergency for the United States.
The language escalated tensions between the two countries and provoked an angry response from President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. Even Venezuelan opposition leaders said it was excessive and had inadvertently played to Mr. Maduro's political benefit.
American officials had previously sought to play down the language in the order, saying that the administration was required by law to make the security threat designation to carry out the sanctions.
But Mr. Rhodes went further on Tuesday, explicitly stating that Venezuela did not pose a threat, adding that the language was "completely pro forma."
"We, frankly, just have a framework for how we formalize these executive orders," he said.
Mr. Maduro faces an economic crisis and has stepped up pressure on the opposition. Prosecutors formally charged the opposition politician Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Caracas, with conspiracy on Tuesday, saying he aimed to destabilize the country.
Mr. Maduro also has sought to shore up his faltering support with a petition calling for Mr. Obama to rescind the order, collecting what he said were millions of signatures. Venezuelan officials have said they plan to deliver the petitions to Mr. Obama at the Organization of American States meeting, which begins in Panama on Friday.
It will include Cuba for the first time, and most attention has focused on a possible encounter between Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba.
[Source: By William Neuman, The New York Times, Bogotá, 07Apr15]
DDHH en Venezuela
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