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Are oil reserves the real reason why Barack Obama has levied sanctions on Venezuela?

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By Harshmeet Singh

Highlighting its ‘deep concern’ for the Venezuelan citizens, USA has declared Venezuela as a ‘National threat’ and slapped various sanctions against seven top Venezuelan officials. As the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gave a scathing speech on Tuesday, blaming the ‘imperialist’ USA for trying to topple his Government, he found support from the iconic Cuban leader, Fidel Castro.

Castro’s message for Maduro read ‘Dear Nicolas Maduro, I congratulate you for your brilliant and brave speech in the face of the brutal plans by the United States government. Your words will go down in history as proof that humanity can and will know the truth,

US’ love for oil

“Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

  • Jimmy Carter, former US President

Overenthusiastic participation of the US in the Gulf War and almost all the Middle Eastern conflicts ever since under the blanket of ‘war on terror’ has been termed by many as US’ attempt to capture oil reserves around the world.

What is common among Venezuela, Iran, Iraq and Libya? Oil is the easiest answer that pops into the mind. All these countries feature in the list of top ten countries with the biggest proven oil reserves in the world. Secondly, each of these countries has faced strong US interventions in the past few years. US showing ‘deep concerns’ for an oil-rich nation and its citizens isn’t a new happening. With the largest proven oil reserves in the world, Venezuela holds a key position in the South American politics and US knows this well.

Current US Venezuela Crisis

Since February this year, the Maduro Government has been blaming the US of supporting the opposition in carrying out violent protests across the country. according to report published in The Guardian, Maduro said that the US has a tradition of carrying out coups in other nations. He also put forward the case of Edward Snowden and a 2006 WikiLeaks cable, according to which, the US was planning to ‘divide, isolate and penetrate’ the erstwhile Venezuelan Government. In one of his addresses to the media in February, he said “I invoke Obama and his African American spirit, to give the order to respect Venezuela”

Averting any blames that its actions are aimed at denting Venezuela’s oil based economy, the White House maintained that its sanctions aren’t intended to hurt Venezuela’s energy sector. According to the US, the seven officials against whom the sanctions have been approved had played a key role in suppressing the anti-Government protests in any undemocratic manner.

When asked about the need to list Venezuela as a ‘national security threat’, a US official said that this is the first step of the US sanctions program and similar steps were followed with Iran and Syria. If the US plans to put Venezuela in the same bracket as Iran and Syria, this might not spell good news for the South America nation.

Maduro’s plans

Maduro is seeking to buy time to sort the growing mess within the country by terming this as a battle between an ‘imperialistic’ USA and a ‘Socialistic’ Venezuela. Whether he succeeds in his plans remains to be seen.

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US Painted in New Colours By A Refugee Artist

"There's so much talk in the news now about refugees, and how many people we should let into the country, and what are they contributing," Weiss said.

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Paint
Ahmad Alkarkhi has started painting with a whole new color palette since he came to the U.S. These colorful horses represent refugees who come from all over and work and live together. VOA

Refugees carry few material possessions when they flee war, violence or persecution in their homelands. But they do bring talent and skill to their new countries.

At the Sandy Spring Museum in Sandy Spring, Maryland, that talent is on display in an exhibit of six refugee artists from Iraq, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Some of the displayed works depict the refugee artists’ memories of their homelands.

“My hometown is Wollo,” explained Ethiopian artist Fetun Getachew. “There is a marketplace once a week. People meet there at the markets for not only buying or selling, [but] just meet together for so many purposes.”

Six artists from Iraq, Ethiopia and Somalia exhibit their work at the Sandy Spring Museum in Maryland, which bills itself as the "heart of the community."
Six artists from Iraq, Ethiopia and Somalia exhibit their work at the Sandy Spring Museum in Maryland, which bills itself as the “heart of the community.” VOA

Iraqi artist Ahmad Alkarkhi contributed a landscape of his country. “I want to show Americans good things about my country,” he said. “This beautiful landscape, no war or different things.”

But coming to a new country inevitably changes the work. For Alkarkhi, it has added color.

“In my country, we don’t have a lot of color there, just gray and brown,” he said. “Here, I saw four seasons clear. I saw many colors. This … change[s] my art, and I need to add more colors to my painting.”

In an unincorporated community of about 6,000 people near Washington, D.C., the museum considers itself a “living history museum,” but not in the conventional sense in which museums employ re-enactors to depict history.

Iraqi Exhibition
Visitors study some of the works on display in the refugee exhibit at the Sandy Spring Museum in Maryland. Many of the works depict scenes from the artists’ home countries. VOA

Rather, Sandy Spring is a place where the community can gather and “have unexpected encounters,” according to the museum website. “It means having cultural artists create experiences for the entire community to enjoy.”

Museum executive director Allison Weiss thinks this particular exhibit says a lot about the contributions of refugees.

“There’s so much talk in the news now about refugees, and how many people we should let into the country, and what are they contributing,” Weiss said. “And I think this exhibit shows that there’s individuals behind the word refugees and they have all sorts of talents that maybe we’re not hearing about from the news.”

Dancing with colors

Alkarkhi works in maintenance at an apartment complex in Riverdale, Maryland. But at night and on the weekends, he can be found in front of a canvas set up in the living room of his small apartment.

Iraq
Iraqi artist Ahmad Alkarkhi paints a landscape at a park near his home in Riverdale, Maryland. VOA

“Painting for me [is] like music. Each painting, different music. I just tell myself, ‘Let me dance with colors on the canvas,'” he said.

Alkarkhi graduated from the University of Baghdad, College of Fine Arts. He was a well-known artist in Iraq until violence forced him to flee to Syria in 2006. But war came there, too. Once again, he was uprooted, relocating three years later to Riverdale with his wife and two children.

Alkarkhi said creating art is his way to give back to America for helping him and his family build a new life in safety.

“America gives refugees a lot of things. I want to do beautiful painting, and I give it to this country and to the people to enjoy with my art,” he said.

Alkarkhi is also painting his experiences as a refugee in his new color palette, as in his piece, “Colorful Horses.”

Also Read: Fear Rise of ‘Lost Generation’ as More Syrian Refugee Children Out of School

“These horses are like refugees. Some from Europe, some from Africa, some came from [the] Middle East. And they come here, they work together, live together, do many things together,” he explained.

“Then, after like 10, 20 years, everybody say I am American. And everybody try to do something good for this country.” (VOA)