In recent weeks, several US policymakers have advocated for actions involving the Venezuelan government, showing the diversity of US interests and perspectives.
While the US Department of State Spokesperson Marie Harf criticized the Venezuelan government’s handling of the prosecution of individuals involved with protests that developed in February, US Charge D’Affaires in Venezuela Lee McClenny privately met with former Foreign Minister Elias Jaua to discuss issues of mutual importance and plan more substantial meetings with Venezuelan leaders in the future. Within the US Senate, on the other hand, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-FL) to allow a vote on legislation that would place further sanctions on Venezuelan officials.
On September 11, Harf released a press statement declaring that the US is “deeply concerned by the lack of due process or fair trial guarantees for persons detained in relation to protests in Venezuela.” In the statement, Harf draws specific attention to the cases brought against Leopoldo López, Enzo Scarano, and Daniel Ceballos and asserts that the “Venezuelan Government has an obligation to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by international law … [including] inform[ing] all persons detained of any charges against them and to either release them or guarantee them a fair and public trial before an independent and impartial tribunal without undue delay.”
On September 12, the Ministry of Popular Power for Foreign Relations responded with a statement calling Harf’s statement “an unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of our country reflecting an attitude of sustained aggression against the Venezuelan people.”
The statement asserts that while the Venezuelan government respects human rights as they are enshrined in the Venezuelan Constitution, the US “systematically violates the human rights of its people and the people of the world … [including] violence against immigrants, against thousands of Central American children, discrimination against minorities of African descent, unpunished crimes by those in power, as in the case of the young Michael Brown, racism, the open practice of kidnapping and torture, as flagrantly occurs in the torture centers of Guantanamo, and other North American military installations around the world; and support for terrorism, bombings, and military attacks in other countries.”