Venezuela has been amassing support to denounce the sanctions President Obama issued against Venezuelan officials in March, collecting more than 8 million signatures asking for the sanctions to be repealed. But now there’s another unexpected voice speaking out against the sanctions: Colombia.
“We have always said that unilateral sanctions generally are counterproductive, and so we reject them,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said in an interview with newspaper El Tiempo Monday. “I believe it would be more constructive to promote dialogue.”
Colombia and Venezuela have had a sometimes tense relationship over the years, with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro regularly accusing Colombia of conspiring against his administration. But their shared border and cooperation against drug trafficking also means Colombia has a strong interest in Venezuela’s stability.
Santos said the two-day Summit of the Americas, which kicks off in Panama Friday, would be a prime opportunity for the U.S. and Venezuela to clear the air and build a “constructive dialogue to make decisions on the growing deterioration of [Venezuela’s] political, social and economic situation.”
President Obama signed an executive order on March 9 to freeze assets and U.S. visas for seven Venezuelan officials accused of being involved in human rights abuses during crackdowns on protesters last year. But the sanctions order included a description of Venezuela as an “extraordinary and unusual threat” to U.S. national security, prompting fierce backlash from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
The U.S. maintains that the language was a legal requirement, but Maduro launched a global campaign to demand the sanctions be repealed. Meanwhile, the sanctions language has proven unpopular with other Latin American governments as well: Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador, Venezuela’s main allies in the region, joined him in denouncing the order, as did Argentina and Chile. Even Venezuela’s opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, released a statement emphasizing that “Venezuela is not a threat to anyone.”
On Tuesday, Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s national security adviser for strategic communication, affirmed that the U.S. “doesn’t believe that Venezuela poses some threat to national security.”