Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday labeled recent US sanctions against Venezuela “counterproductive,” reinforcing an opinion that has previously been expressed by his administration.
Santos made the statement in a written interview given with newspaper Miami Herald on the eve of the 7th Summit of the Americas taking place in Panama.
“History has demonstrated that unilateral sanctions are counterproductive in the long run,” Santos wrote the Miami Herald, adding that “for this reason, on principle, we have rejected them.”
Crisis in Venezuela
Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the conservative opposition to Venezuela’s leftist government, was incarcerated over a year ago for instigating anti-government protests that resulted in the death of over 40 people.
The incarceration of Lopez and Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma led United States president Barack Obama to characterize the leftist South American country as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
In the same executive order, Obama sanctioned seven Venezuelan government and military officials accused of committing human rights abuses and participating in the detention of the opposition leaders.
Santos calls for dialogue
However, Santos insisted “the only way out of the crisis in Venezuela must come from a constructive dialogue between the Venezuelan government and opposition forces.”
“Colombia has been promoting this dialogue actively and decisively, but also with respect for their autonomy,” the president stated.
“We want Venezuela to do well because anything that happens there also affects the Colombian people,” said Santos.
When asked if Colombia could play a similar role in rebuilding a relationship between the US and Venezuela as it did with the US and Cuba, Santos said he “did not foresee direct actions.”
“The best path [for Obama] is usually dialogue and consultations, exactly the way he demonstrated with Cuba,” affirmed Colombia’s head of state.
The Union of South American Nations, which speaks for the continent’s 12 independent countries, had already demanded the US drop the sanctions in a statement issued in March, calling them “a threat to sovereignty and the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states.”