Photo: Protest in Venezuela (@alexxlennonn)
The money U.S. lawmakers are proposing to spend to protect human rights in Venezuela would actually be used to fund violent anti-government protests, the Andean nation’s attorney general said here Friday.
“They asked for an appropriation. Undoubtedly this is to finance these violent actions that have been occurring in Venezuela,” Luisa Ortega said during a press conference in Geneva, where she is attending a U.N. gathering.
Nearly a month of opposition protests across Venezuela have left 28 people dead, including civilians - both opponents and supporters of the leftist government - and members of the security forces.
The U.S. money, Ortega said Friday, would go to buy “C-4, which is a highly explosive substance. We confiscated around a kilo of C-4” from protesters.
Asked whether she really meant to accuse U.S. legislators of wishing to finance unrest in Venezuela, the attorney general replied: “If they are asking for money, $12 million, for what else is that money?”
Ortega referred to a pair of bipartisan bills put forward Thursday in the U.S. Congress.
The bills call for imposing sanctions on officials of President Nicolas Maduro’s government deemed to have been involved in violence and for the provision of between $12 million and $15 million for the protection of human rights in Venezuela.
Authorities are holding 14 members of the security forces without bail on charges of violating human rights amid the anti-government protests, Ortega office said earlier this week.
Venezuelan law bans the use of foreign funds for domestic political activity, Ortega pointed out during the press conference, vowing to punish individuals or groups who flout that law.
“Is the United States the policeman of world? Who gave them the authority to impose sanctions on states?,” she asked. “Are they the prosecutor of the world, the court of the world?”
“Because in that case, I will also arrogate that role to myself and question the (U.S.) actions in Guantanamo, the invasion of Vietnam, the invasion of Afghanistan, the outrages they have committed in South America and Central America, the (1973) coup d’etat in Chile,” she said.
Venezuela, Ortega said, is a sovereign, independent nation that respects the right of other countries to self-determination and expects the same in return.
Ties between Caracas and Washington soured during the 1999-2013 presidency of the late Hugo Chavez, a vehement critic of U.S. foreign policy who was Maduro’s mentor and predecessor.
Diplomatic relations have remained at the level of charge d’affaires since late 2010, when Caracas rejected the proposed U.S. ambassador and Washington retaliated by expelling the Venezuelan envoy.
Another round of tit-for-tat expulsions occurred last month after the Maduro government booted three U.S. consular officials it accused of organizing and funding anti-government demonstrations.
Despite the frictions, Venezuela - sitting on the world’s largest reserves of crude - remains a key U.S. oil supplier and significant trading partner.