A week of hypocrisy in US policy: Cuba diplomacy, Venezuela sanctions and CIA torture
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A week of hypocrisy in US policy: Cuba diplomacy, Venezuela sanctions and CIA torture

Just days after Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States would seek to open full diplomatic relations with Cuba, the U.S. president signed a bill sanctioning Venezuelan officials tied to human rights violations allegedly committed in a crackdown on anti-government protesters earlier this year.

Many have already taken note of the seeming contradiction of these two policies supported by the White House. The U.S. is almost completely isolated in the world on its Cuban embargo policy, and many in the international community are welcoming the move. But little support can be expected for the targeted sanctions against Venezuela.

Read more: US Senate approves bill to sanction Venezuelan officials

First, few in Venezuela — even among the opposition — want U.S. sanctions. Venezuela’s leading pollster, Luis Vicente León of Datanálisis, has found that an overwhelming majority of Venezuelans disagree with the idea of U.S. sanctions. And Provea, a Venezuelan human rights group critical of the government, has rejected the policy, saying that “instead of weakening an authoritarian government, it will strengthen it because it will provide arguments to say that behind the social protests is a conspiracy promoted by the U.S..”

Regionally, the South American trading bloc Mercosur, which includes Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, has rejected the U.S. move, say it “violates the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States, and does not contribute to stability, social peace, and democracy in Venezuela.”

Read more: Venezuelans march to protest US sanctions

Explaining the two developments in U.S. policy toward Cuba and Venezuela, Alexander Main, a senior associate for international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has described them as “one step forward, one step back” for U.S.-Latin American relations. Since Obama knew he would be angering the right in his new Cuba policy, Main wrote that the “president apparently felt he should throw them a bone to try to appease them.” The bone was the Venezuelan sanctions.

A deeper contradiction

The timing of the Venezuelan sanctions has revealed an even more troubling contradiction in U.S. policy, this one involving the legislative branch. Just one day before Congress passed the Venezuelan sanctions on December 10, the Senate released a declassified 500-page summary of a controversial report describing the CIA’s torture regime under the Bush administration.

The report described some of the brutal post-9/11 tactics used by the agency, which included not only waterboarding, but “rectal rehydration” (what many believe is simply sexual assault/rape), sleep deprivation, mock executions, threats to sexually abuse detainees’ mothers and the death of one detainee — who, it was later determined, was detained as a result of mistaken identity — due to hypothermia.

The report also gives a “conservative estimate” that some 26 of the CIA’s 119 detainees did not meet the standards of detention. Put simply, the CIA tortured completely innocent people. And former vice president Dick Cheney would do it all again.

While the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration claim to be concerned about the human right violations of the Venezuelan government, they have done absolutely nothing to prosecute those responsible for the systematic violations committed by the Bush administration. In fact, the only person who is in jail in connection to the program is whistleblower who helped expose the CIA’s use of waterboarding.

The hypocrisy was perfectly summed up in two tweets from Republican Senator Marco Rubio who, in the same day, voiced his support for American human rights violators and celebrated the Venezuelan sanctions:

Rubio’s willingness to ignore and even champion human rights violations committed by the U.S. government and its regional allies — like Colombia and Mexico — while condemning those of Latin American governments whose policies he does not like is indicative of a general problem with U.S. policy in the region. The sanctions against Venezuelan officials are merely the latest example.