By Sean Penn
With due respect to the U.S. Department of State and Secretary Clinton, [what follows is] in regards to economic sanctions leveled under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA) on Venezuela and six other foreign entities. Among the affected countries only Venezuela is a nation in abject poverty. Oil is its primary export and the exceptionally devastating impact upon its people should be of specific consideration. There has been a systemic barrage of misreporting and context-shifting within the U.S. media and espoused by many U.S. Representatives relative to Venezuela and its democratically elected President Hugo Chavez.
The American people have grown accustomed to the Venezuelan president being referred to as a dictator not only by media representatives, but by members of the leadership in both parties. This is defamation, not only to President Chavez, but also to the majority of Venezuelan people – poor people who have elected him president time and time again.
He is not a dictator supported by the wealthy classes, but rather, a president elected by the impoverished and at the service of the Venezuelan constitution, a document not unlike our own. He is a flamboyant, passionate leader. And while our own cultural and constitutional conditioning would lead us to have serious concerns about the powers of his office, there must be an informed adjustment to give our analyses a context that may extend beyond our borders.
The current environment of passive U.S. citizen response, provided by this lack of understanding and misleading information, is one where the essential oversights of public opinion are effectively defaulted upon, and in exchange, a predisposition to accept U.S. intervention in Venezuela exists. Furthermore, lobbyists of the fringe right exploit a void of direct diplomatic communication between the United States and Venezuela, and inflame a division affecting both countries with enormously shared interests.
It is upon the U.S. government and the American people to carefully and publicly consider any economic intervention upon a foreign nation, in particular those plagued by poverty. The United States, and indeed all capitalist nations, engages in largely unrestricted trade with numerous countries, both secular and theocratic, traditionally associated with social and political oppression, and indeed contributors (suspected or acknowledged) to nuclear proliferation. While it is noted that Iran is such a nation, and that it is due to Venezuela's oil trade with Iran (actual or alleged) that they have been listed, it should also be noted that an entity in the state of Israel has also been named among the seven sanctioned.
The potential for CISADA’S overreach with the "energy" classification may be reminiscent of restrictions and prohibitions on exports in pre-war Iraq, specifically when non-weaponized materials such as x-ray machines – entirely inadaptable to weaponization – were characterized as "dual use" materials. The only significant result of that policy was to deprive sick Iraqi civilians of basic care.
That it is assumed in the State Dept.’s announcement that Venezuela’s action – supplying its single lifeline export to a country suspected of developing instruments of proliferation – is worthy of CISADA action risks precedent and abuse that must be scrutinized and balanced in its full context and view. While the State Department has reported its investigations into overall impacts on oil markets, no such comprehensive study has been offered in balance with the human impact on countries sanctioned.
Based on this, the American people should call for a moratorium on the CISADA sanctions of Venezuela until such time as a congressional hearing may be convened and strategic benefits evidenced in balance with the historic effects of similar sanctions in other developing and impoverished nations. With the recent actions of mediation taken by Venezuela, in collaboration with Colombia, for the reintegration of Honduras into the OAS, President Chavez has demonstrated a will toward diplomatic harmony, and the sanctions themselves should serve to initiate high level interaction that has for too long suffered the prejudice of profile and anti-Venezuelan political lobbying.
Sean Penn is an American actor, screenwriter and film director, also known for his political and social activism. He is a two-time Academy Award winner.
From The Huffington Post