THE US House of Representatives disregarded regional consensus on Wednesday by voting to support sanctions against Venezuela.
The vote by acclamation was overwhelming despite a last-ditch appeal by Michigan’s John Conyers and 13 other progressive Democrats who opposed sanctions and called for restoration of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
The minority had pointed out that regional bodies including the Organisation of American States, the Caribbean Community and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) had all rejected the case for sanctions.
But far-right Florida Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, who cut their teeth on campaigns to undermine Cuban independence, led the charge to attack Venezuela.
The House, with 435 members, took just 20 minutes to pass the Bill that would impose sanctions on Venezuelan officials it considers guilty of human rights violations while funding political opponents of President Nicolas Maduro.
The Senate foreign relations committee, headed by fellow far-right Florida Republican Marco Rubio, has already backed the Bill.
If the full Senate emulates the House, President Barack Obama’s signature would then make it law.
President Maduro has scorned the sanctions process, pointing out that US laws have no jurisdiction outside US territory.
“The north American government cannot approve legislation to sanction the inhabitants of another country … any sanctions law approved by the US is spurious. We reject it and will confront it in forums worldwide.”
Unasur condemned US “interference” in Venezuela last week, calling its meddling an obstacle to national dialogue, and backed the peace process initiated by the Bolivarian government.
Venezuela Foreign Minister Elias Jaua plans to propose condemnation of US interference at the Summit of the G-77 plus China, which meets in Bolivia on June 14-15, and at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States which meets next month.
The Maduro government claimed on Wednesday that US ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker was involved in attempts to destabilise revolutionary Venezuela.
It cited emails from Maria Corina Machado, who was dismissed as a deputy in March for unconstitutional behaviour, to other opposition activists.