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Obama Faces Latin American Opposition to Venezuela

Obama Faces Latin American Opposition to Venezuela Sanctions as Cuba Joins Summit of the Americas

america-obama-port_3261900bU.S. President Barack Obama smiles during remarks by Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller after their meeting at Jamaica House in Kingston. While in Jamaica, Obama is meeting with leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations, before continuing on to Panama for the Summit of the Americas Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

President Obama has arrived in Panama to attend the Summit of the Americas along with other leaders from Canada, Central America, South America, the Caribbean — and for the first time, Cuba. On Thursday, Obama announced the State Department has finished its review of whether Cuba should be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The move would allow the two countries to reopen their embassies and move forward on historic efforts to normalize relations that were announced in December. Meanwhile, the United States faces other tensions at the summit over its recent sanctions against Cuba’s close ally, Venezuela. An executive order signed by President Obama last month used the designation to sanction top Venezuelan officials over alleged human rights abuses and corruption. This week, the United States announced it no longer considers the country a national security threat. Other topics expected to be on the summit’s agenda include trade, security and migration. We speak with two guests: Miguel Tinker Salas, professor of Latin American history at Pomona College and author of the new book, “Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know,” and Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and president of Just Foreign Policy. His article in The Hill is headlined “Obama Could Face Disastrous Summit Due to Venezuela Sanctions.”

TRANSCRIPT

283px-Democracy_Now!_logo.svgJUAN GONZÁLEZ: We move now to the Summit of the Americas. President Obama has arrived in Panama to attend the Summit of the Americas along with other leaders from Canada, Central America, South America, the Caribbean—and for the first time, Cuba. Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are reportedly due to meet informally at the summit, making this the first time presidents from the two countries have sat down since President Eisenhower met with Cuban President Batista.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Obama announced the State Department has finished its review of whether Cuba should be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, but said he would wait to act until receiving final recommendations from White House advisers. He could make that announcement at the summit. Congress would then have 45 days to decide whether to override it. The move allows the two countries to reopen their embassies and move forward on historic efforts to normalize relations that were announced in December.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, the U.S. faces other tensions at the summit over its recent sanctions against Cuba’s close ally, Venezuela. An executive order signed by President Obama last month used the designation to sanction top Venezuelan officials over alleged human rights abuses and corruption. This week, the U.S. announced it’s backing off its move deeming the country a national security threat. In an interview with EFE News, Obama sought to tone down the confrontation, saying, quote, “We do not believe that Venezuela poses a threat to the United States, nor does the United States threaten the Venezuelan government,” he said. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro responded on Thursday.

PRESIDENT NICOLÁS MADURO: [translated] We may be able to say that the statements given today by President Barack Hussein Obama could open a door to start a new era of relations among Venezuela and a free and sovereign Latin America and the empire of the United States. It could happen.

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