There was a time I liked Obama. Although I am a conservative and would have preferred to see John McCain in the White House, I was not particularly sad to see Obama win the presidency. I felt the U.S. was ready for a black president (where did Colin Powell go?) and I felt Obama sounded both articulate and idealistic. However, at this point in time, with Obama already well into his second term, I feel he has not lived up to expectations, becoming too much of a populist for my taste. And when I say populist I am thinking of the very negative connotation of this term in my native language, Spanish, which equals it to demagoguery, the empty words of politicians who promise the moon knowing that they will not be able to deliver it. The social policies of Obama, such as Obamacare, have that ring to it. However, where he looks weakest is in the realm of foreign policy. He has failed to assert U.S. democratic values in the world, making undue concessions to autocratic governments and failing to act decisively in crises such as the ones in Syria and Egypt. His answer to the Hitler-like annexation of Crimea by Putin has been extremely mild. The indifference he has shown to Latin American issues has been only comparable to that of Richard Nixon.
His posture regarding the Venezuelan tragedy illustrates this point. In the U.S. Congress a bipartisan bill that would empower the Obama administration to compile a list of human rights abusers in the Venezuelan government, freeze their assets and ban them from the United States has already been passed by the Foreign Relations committees of both houses and by the House of Representatives. In a significantly polarized political environment, where bipartisan action is no longer frequent, this bill has received full support from Republicans and Democrats alike.
However, the Obama administration is opposing this action. In a recent meeting of the Committee Of Foreign Relations of the Senate the inept Undersecretary of State for Latin America, Mrs. Roberta Jacobson, was asked by Senators Rubio and Menendez about the reasons for the inaction of the U.S. government regarding Venezuela and she said that some members of the Venezuelan opposition had asked them not to sanction the Venezuelan government officers involved in human rights violations. Days after she had testified in this manner, under oath, she retracted her testimony and said that no members of the Venezuelan opposition had made such a request. She added that the U.S. government did not approve of enforcing sanctions against the members of the Venezuelan regime, since such an action would “harm the outcome of the dialogue” between the Venezuelan government and the opposition. In fact, this dialogue has never had possibilities for success, since the Venezuelan government is clearly using it as a strategy to defuse the strong popular street protests.
Obviously the Obama administration has no intentions of enforcing sanctions against the Venezuelan regime, if they can help it. They believe that the government of Venezuela, although undemocratic, is preferable to the political instability that, according to them, would erupt in Venezuela with a change in regime. In doing this they are prepared, not only to sacrifice the well-being of Venezuelans fighting for democracy, but also the principles and values which have made the US an icon of freedom.
In failing to act against the corrupt and authoritarian Venezuelan regime President Obama has broken away from his promises to the American people. In his first inauguration speech he said : “ we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers -- (applause) -- our Founding Fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man -- a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience sake”. In his second inauguration speech he stated: “ We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom”.
The posture of the U.S. government regarding Venezuela so far does not honor these words.
In parallel with the reticence shown by Obama to act against the Venezuelan regime, an expensive and all-out propaganda campaign has been launched in the U.S., paid by the Venezuelan regime, incorporating numerous hired guns and groups that have traditionally sided with the leftist dictatorships in the hemisphere. In spite of this costly propaganda effort the Venezuelan regime is losing the battle of public opinion, not only in the U.S but also in other countries of the world.
Gustavo Coronel is a 28 years oil industry veteran, a member of the first board of directors (1975-1979) of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), author of several books. At the present Coronel is Petroleumworld associate editor and advisor on the opinion and editorial content of the site . All his articles can be read in Gustavo's blog. Las Armas de Coronel . Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.
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