Obama sits down with head of country he declared a national security threat last month
Last month, the president issued an executive order imposing some mild sanctions on seven Venezuela officials who the U.S. says were responsible for the growing climate of human rights violations. The White House said of President Maduro’s crackdown on the opposition, “We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents./..Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent.”
The executive order also declared that Venezuela was an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."
But late last week, the president did a 180 degree about face, saying that “Venezuela is not a threat to the U.S. and the U.S. is not a threat to Venezuela.” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was esctatic, claiming "victory" over American imperialsm. And the explanation given by former speechwriter Ben Rhodes who now fancies himself a foreign policy expert, beggars belief:
Asked whether the U.S. was walking back from its previous depiction of Venezuela as a national security threat, a State Department spokesman, Justen Thomas, referred to remarks by a deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes, at a press briefing this week in which he said: “The wording [of the executive order], which got a lot of attention, is completely pro forma. This is a language that we use in executive orders around the world. So the United States does not believe that Venezuela poses some threat to our national security. We, frankly, just have a framework for how we formalize these executive orders.”
By his side was Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, a willing signer of the petition that will be delivered this weekend to President Obama at the Summit of the Americas taking place in Panama City.
So when the president issues an executive order, does that mean that his immigration power grab is just "pro forma"?
No doubt the president fell all over himself apologizing to Maduro when they met:
U.S. President Barack Obama met Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro privately at a regional summit on Saturday and tried to ease tensions that surged after the United States recently placed sanctions on Venezuela.
Maduro had earlier challenged Obama to discuss his decision to sanction seven Venezuelan officials, saying in a speech to the summit in Panama that he had been trying to arrange a meeting with Obama for two years but never received a response.
Obama was not present at the time but the two later met. A Venezuelan government spokeswoman said they greeted each other in Spanish and had a respectful conversation.
A U.S. official said it was a brief conversation just as Obama was leaving for his return to the United States.
"President Obama indicated our strong support for a peaceful dialogue between the parties within Venezuela. He reiterated that our interest is not in threatening Venezuela, but in supporting democracy, stability and prosperity in Venezuela and the region," said Bernadette Meehan, a National Security Council spokeswoman.
I guess the notion that Venezuela is an "unusual" threat to national security is no longer valid. That's a relief. For a minute I thought Obama was going to get tough on one of the real thugs of the region. Instead, he blows Maduro kisses and virtually wishes him well in his crackdown on dissent.
Thank God that summit is over. Obama spent so much time apologizing - to Venezuela, to Cuba, for "American meddling" in the region -that it's a wonder he had time to eat or sleep.