The first time President Barack Obama met the late President Hugo Chávez at the Summit of the Americas six years ago, the voluble Venezuelan leader gave the recently elected American a bear hug. The public display of affection toward the U.S. president reflected the global embrace of an African-American U.S. president, and demonstrated that perhaps a new era had dawned after the rocky years of the Bush administration.
But when Obama meets Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, at this year’s summit on April 10 in Panama, there won’t be any hugging.
That’s because on March 9 the White House issued an executive order that pulled the visas and froze the U.S.-based assets of seven Venezuelan officials implicated in human rights abuses against democratic activists over the past year. Unfortunately, the order to freeze their assets also included standard Treasury Department bureaucratese that branded Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
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