Editorials

White House names names

IN OPPOSITION: Protester, wearing a T-shirt that reads in Spanish: “Free Ledezma,” in reference to Caracas’ mayor Antonio Ledezma, holds a chain during a protest in that city last month.
IN OPPOSITION: Protester, wearing a T-shirt that reads in Spanish: “Free Ledezma,” in reference to Caracas’ mayor Antonio Ledezma, holds a chain during a protest in that city last month. AP

President Obama’s executive order sanctioning some of the worst human-rights violators in Venezuela begins the process of holding individuals accountable for destroying what once was one of the proudest democracies in Latin America.

By itself, the order naming seven officials won’t stop President Nicolás Maduro’s regime from systematically harassing, beating and jailing members of the opposition. But it puts the bullies on notice that there is a price to pay for their actions.

The sanctions are the direct result of legislation passed by Congress in December authorizing penalties that would freeze the assets and ban visas for anyone accused of carrying out acts of violence or violating the human rights of those opposing Venezuela’s government.

The not-so-magnificent seven in President Obama’s executive order include officials in the intelligence service, national guard, public ministry and armed services. Among them is prosecutor Katherine Nayarith Haringhton Padrón, who has figured prominently in the effort to criminalize dissent by filing highly dubious charges against key opposition leaders, including former National Assembly legislator Maria Corina Machado and Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma Diaz.

The order means that she and the others will have their property in this country blocked or frozen. They are prohibited from entering the United States, and U.S. citizens are prohibited from doing business with them.

It is worth asking at this point how individuals supposedly working for “the people” and “socialism” in a country whose currency is increasingly worthless have accumulated the wherewithal to own valuable assets, possibly real estate, in the United States, and why they would need to visit “the empire” they so detest.

Surely ill-gotten gains from holding office could not account for it, because President Maduro has repeatedly assured his country that corruption plays no part in his beloved Bolivarian Revolution. If he cares, he would make it his business to find out what this property consists of, how much it’s worth and where the money to buy it came from. Don’t hold your breath.

The White House order is unlikely to improve the relationship between the United States and Venezuela, but for that the Maduro regime can only blame itself. The relationship is already in tatters thanks to the unrelenting stream of lies and propaganda coming out of Miraflores Palace in Caracas. Washington has been silent too long as the government denies Venezuelan citizens the human rights to which they are entitled.

The government’s attack on Venezuelan democracy, as outlined by Human Rights Watch recently, consists of a systematic effort to dismantle what’s left of its democratic legacy.

The latest actions include a January order granting powers to the military — trained for warfare — to use force against peaceful demonstrations, a clear tactic of intimidation. Meanwhile, there has been little accountability for numerous abuses committed by security forces last year against street protests, and prominent opposition leader Leopoldo López, a leader of those protests, remains in a military prison.

Obviously, it takes more than seven individuals to destroy democracy in Venezuela and bring the nation to the brink of ruin. The Obama administration should make sure that the notorious seven against whom sanctions were imposed on Monday are soon joined by their cronies.

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