Venezuela has placed a full page ad in The New York Times decrying what it charges are “tyrannical” attempts by the US government to undermine its socialist system. The ad declaring that “Venezuela is not a threat” comes amid mounting tensions between the two countries after President Nicolás Maduro this month accused Washington of plotting to oust him and ordered the US Embassy in Caracas to slash staffing levels.
The US has denied the accusations and in turn applied sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials for allegedly violating human rights during anti-government protests last year.
“Never before in the history of our nations has a president of the United States attempted to govern Venezuelans by decree,” said Venezuela’s ad, which urges the Obama administration to immediately cease all hostile actions. “It is a tyrannical and imperial order and it pushes us back into the darkest days of the relationship” between the US and Latin America.
The media outreach comes as officials in both Caracas and Washington engage in another round of rhetorical posturing.
On Capitol Hill, US senators grilled senior Obama administration officials on what more the United States can do to defuse a deepening political and economic crisis in Venezuela. The oil-dependent economy had widespread food shortages and the world’s fastest inflation even before the recent plunge in crude prices burned a hole in the government’s finances.
Alex Lee, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for Latin America, said legislative elections expected to take place in the country later this year will present an opportunity to reduce tensions because Venezuelans’ political views will be heard.
But he emphasized that it is important for regional governments, almost all of which have rejected the US sanctions as heavy-handed, to mount a robust observation mission to ensure voting results are credible.
Lee said concerns about Venezuela would be one of Obama’s top priorities when he travels next month to Panama to attend the Summit of Americas.