Obama Declares Venezuela a Threat to U.S. National Security

US President Barack Obama has issued an executive order declaring Venezuela a national security threat, and slapped sanctions on seven officials. According to a White House statement issued on Monday.

The new set of targeted sanctions excludes the Venezuelan people and any trade relations with the oil-rich nation and are instead specifically aimed at government officials the US accuses of violating human rights.

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“Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of US financial systems,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in the statement. “We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents. Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalising dissent,” the statement said. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro responded by saying the US measures were intended to topple his socialist government.”

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President Barack Obama, representing the US imperialist elite, has personally decided to take on the task of defeating my government and intervening in Venezuela to control it,” Maduro said in a national television address. Venezuela’s foreign ministry also recalled its top diplomat in the US for “immediate” consultations after the announcement. The latest US action marks another downturn in relations between Washington and Caracas. Just last week Maduro announced measures to limit the number of US diplomats in Venezuela, reducing a staff of nearly 100 to just 17 individuals. In addition to reducing embassy staff, Venezuela is now requiring US citizens to have a visa before entering the country. The two countries have not had full diplomatic representation since 2008, when late socialist leader Hugo Chavez expelled then-US Ambassador Patrick Duddy. Washington at the time responded by expelling Venezuelan envoy Bernardo Alvarez.