America Imposes Sanctions On Venezuela

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The New York Sun

WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States is imposing a ban on arms sales to Venezuela because of what it says is a lack of support by President Hugo Chavez’s government for counterterrorism efforts, the State Department said Monday.

For nearly a year, there has been a nearly total lack of cooperation with anti-terrorism, Darla Jordan, a State Department spokeswoman, said.

As a result, U.S. sales and licensing for the export of defense articles and services to Venezuela, including the transfer of defense items, will not be permitted, she said.

Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to the United States but relations between Chavez and the Bush administration have sharply deteriorated. Chavez has called Bush a “terrorist,” and denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Just last month, the State Department used its annual report on international terrorism to accuse Chavez of having an “ideological affinity” with two leftist guerrilla groups operating in neighboring Colombia, the FARC and the National Liberation Army. The United States considers both to be terrorist organizations.

The United States also has been tracking with concern what department spokesman Tom Casey called Venezuela’s multibillion dollar arms acquisition program.

Casey and other administration officials underscored that listing Venezuela as a country not cooperating fully in countering terrorism does not mean Venezuela is being designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.

On a visit to London, Chavez greeted the news nonchalantly, saying “this doesn’t matter to us at all” and saying his government would not respond with punitive measures such as travel restrictions.

“It’s the empire and it has a great capacity to do harm to the countries of the world,” he said, referring to the U.S. as “an irrational empire.”

Earlier Monday, Chavez rejected U.S. claims that Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at producing a nuclear bomb. “I don’t believe that the United States or anyone else has the right … to prohibit that a country has nuclear energy,” he said at a news conference in London.

Chavez, an ally of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, has repeatedly accused the United States of trying to overthrow him to seize his country’s vast oil reserves. U.S. officials have denied that and accused him being a threat to democracies in the region.

Venezuela delivered millions of gallons of discount-priced heating oil to some low-income Americans in the Northeast this past winter, distributing it through Citgo Petroleum Corp., the U.S.-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. Some critics saw the move as an effort to embarrass Bush.

In a speech Saturday to a Vienna meeting of activists and members of social movements and non-governmental groups, Chavez said the “final hours of the North American empire have arrived.”

“So now we have to say to the empire: ‘We’re not afraid of you. You’re a paper tiger,” he added.

The New York Sun

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