Obama’s Contradictory Policies with Cuba and Venezuela

Jesús Arboleya  (Progreso Weekly)

Plaza Venezuela in Caracas.  Photo: Caridad
Plaza Venezuela in Caracas. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Much bewilderment has been caused by the US government’s decision to declare Venezuela “an extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States” and to impose sanctions on several functionaries from that country while, at the same time, it makes prodigious efforts to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba, its historical adversary in the region.

It had appeared that one of the objectives of the United States policy toward Cuba was to save the Summit of the Americas, set for Panama April 10-11, an objective threatened by the unanimous rejection of the other countries to the island’s exclusion.

Once that obstacle were cleared, perhaps Obama hoped to strut through the conference hall, not letting some reproaches mar an image much in need of repair, which the new policy toward Cuba was giving him.

However, all that went downhill when the United States dropped the “bomb” of the alleged Venezuelan threat, and it seems that no one can rightly explain the reasons. Not even the very US government, which has only said that it’s a “legal formality” to stress its concerns regarding the internal situation in that country. According to them, it’s not worthwhile to exaggerate, because 30 other countries are in the same situation.

It is difficult for any Latin American and Caribbean country to accept the meddlesome terms of the US statement against Venezuela. That’s what most governments and political movements in the region have said. Even the most tepid ones have opted to remain silent, but no one has dared to support it.

Regional institutions such as UNASUR, ALBA and CARICOM have voiced their condemnation of President Obama’s executive order and proposed a dialogue between the parties, a solution that Venezuela accepts as good but that the US has not commented on.

Not even much of the Venezuelan right has been able to support Washington’s statement and the corresponding sanctions. They even complain that, because of it, plans have been aborted that needed discretion on the part of the US, contributing to strengthen the credibility of the Venezuelan government before its people and the rest of the world.

Inside US society, a majority of the press, several think tanks and specialists on Latin America have deemed the president’s executive order to be counterproductive, at the very least. While Obama wanted to show his political enemies that he was strong, instead he underlined the inconsistencies that have characterized his administration. The truth is that not even the new policy toward Cuba needs to attempt that kind of defense.

A sure result is that, whatever the intentions of the US government may be, the agenda of the next Summit of the Americas has already been written and the main topics for discussion will be the end of the threats to Venezuela and the lifting of the blockade against Cuba.

Even assuming that some countries will distance themselves from the majority because of US pressure, the US runs the risk that the crisis may extend to the already questioned operation of the OAS, endangering the very existence of the Pan-American system, through which it has articulated its hegemony in the continent.

By all the means in its power, Cuba has made clear its solidarity with Venezuela, as well as its will not to be “seduced or bought” by the United States or abandon its allies. That stance casts doubt onto the possibility of reestablishing diplomatic relations with the US before the Summit and at the very least alters the rhythm of the process of negotiation in which Obama has invested so much political capital and has earned considerable support at home and abroad.

The moral is that the implementation of the United States’ policy is conditioned by such diverse and contradictory interests that often it becomes difficult to understand its actions. That explains why failed policies for the nation bring formidable business for some consortiums; the existence of a polarized political body when it should be homogeneous; and the irrationality of a policy that tends to destroy the international order where the US is the dominant power.

In my opinion, we’re looking at a game that the US has lost because of a bad play. All that’s left to the US president is to begin another game in the hope that he will act more sensibly. In any case, he won’t be able to strut in Panama, where he can expect the contempt that he has earned.

16 thoughts on “Obama’s Contradictory Policies with Cuba and Venezuela

  • March 20, 2015 at 7:04 am

    Obama didn’t say a “potential” threat. He said “…constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and
    foreign policy of the United States”. I didn’t say “imminent” US invasion I said implied “threat” to invade (or some other kind of military action). If Obama meant to say “we are worried about the political and economic situation in Venezuela and the potential destabilizing effect in the region” well then that’s what he should have said.

  • March 19, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Think about what you are saying. The US, by declaring the policies and practices of the Maduro regime as a potential national security threat decided to sanction a handful of Venezuelan thugs. You say this implies an imminent US invasion? Really? BTW, US interest in Venezuelan oil is declining as the US continues to grow energy independent based on shale oil.

  • March 19, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I think everyone in Latin America sees it as an implied threat. Sure Maduro etc are going to make the most of it, but just shows how stupid the remark was. I haven’t heard any clarification of the misunderstanding so not wilfully ignoring nor seen any reference to your interpretation – but again if it needs clarifying then it shows the nature of the remark.

    But I would like to hear you comment on this article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-29069860 and explain why Mexican officials haven’t been sanctioned by the US.

  • March 19, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    Obama should treat Cuba as the dictatorship it is and Maduro as the “wannabee” dictators he is.
    Fortunately Venezuelans still have the opportunity to set things right in elections. Even that is denied to Cubans.

  • March 19, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Dani,

    Obama is no imbecile and the terminology does not imply a threat of invasion. I understand why Maduro, the Castro’s and others want to ring the alarm bell. They want to distract attention from the fact these sanctions Venezuelan officials are accused of human rights abuses and drug running, amongst other crimes.

    Several US officials have already spoken to clarify the misunderstanding. You can ignore the explanation if you chose. However, in a few weeks, or months at most, we will find out what the President is talking about, when the Venezuelan economy collapses.

    True, the US did have a hand in the coup against Chavez, but at this point, they don’t have to do anything to bring about the end of the Maduro government. The bus driver is handling that well enough on his own.


    The US is interested in Venezuelan oil, very true, and they already buy it. In fact, the US is Venezuela’s biggest customer. Do you know who else has a very serious interest in Venezuela’s oil? Cuba. Raul Castro knows that if the supply of free oil from Venezuela is cut off, his regime is screwed. That’s why Maduro is backed up by the Cuban MININT.

  • March 19, 2015 at 11:35 am

    I don’t buy this at all Griffin .You are grasping at straws.If the US was really concerned about the economy of Venezuela ,they should try and help them out and not go for regime change as standard practice for any country that dares to try and take care of their own people.The US is interested in Venezuela because of it’s resource mostly ,it’s oil is what we are talking about and the privatization of same, so that their corporate masters can control it.
    Cuba , in spite of the criminal sanctions against it ,has survived and although I did not suffer the consequences of those sanctions,I am very proud of Cuba and it’s people for having persevered and won to tell you the truth ,over what amounts to very poor statesmanship on the part of the US establishment. Criminal is what I would call it.
    The US has been trying to destabilize Venezuela for years.The coup against it ,attempted in 2002 ,is now well established historically and they will not quit trying to do it again.It is about the Munroe doctrine ,all about the US doing whatever it desires to anyone it considers as not acting to the benefit of the US .
    IMHO it is an empire now in decline ,as the world is waking up to the shenanigans of the yankee .No longer ,if it ever was,so exceptional ,except in their own minds.

  • March 19, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Even that doomsday scenario isn’t exactly a threat to national security of the US. If it was then most of Latin America at one time or another would have been as well. In fact Obama is acting like an imbecile, using a term that implies a threat of invasion by the US.

    The government and opposition in Venezuela have both been guilty of violence which was brought on by the opposition refusing to accept the election results. Where there have been abuses on the government side the perpetrators have been sanctioned already. If the US has evidence then they should publish it.

    Anyone looking objectively at the situation would ask why hasn’t he sanctioned ministers in Honduras or Mexico, but we all know that it is a purely political decision. Just when Obama was gaining respect in the region he goes and completely blows it.

  • March 19, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Venezuela is seen as a threat to national security because the economy is on the verge of collapse. When that happens, the social & political systems of the country, already strained and frayed, will also collapse. In the ensuing chaos, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan refugees will swamp the borders of her neighbours.

    Perhaps at that point, the other countries of South America will understand what President Obama was talking about.

    Cuba is rallying behind Maduro because without the steady supply of free Venezuelan oil, Cuba’s economy will be wrecked as well. That too will lead to an increase in refugees arriving at America’ shores.

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