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

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US Vene (1)

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.

Next Story

Kurdish Iraq Strives To End Female Genital Mutilation

The U.N. expects it can better fight FGM in 2019, partly because of the reduced threat posed by the Islamic State group. 

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Kurdistan Rasul, center, an Iraqi Kurdish activist with the nonprofit organization WADI, speaks to women and young girls about the harms of genital mutilation in Sharboty Saghira, a small village east of Irbil, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

Dark skies were threatening rain over an Iraqi Kurdistan village, but one woman refused to budge from outside a house where two girls were at risk of female genital mutilation.

“I know you’re home! I just want to talk,” called out Kurdistan Rasul, 35, a pink headscarf forming a sort of halo around her plump features.

For many, she is an angel — an Iraqi Kurdish activist with the Germany-based nonprofit Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Cooperation (WADI), on a crusade to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM).

FGM, in which a girl or woman’s genitals are cut or removed, was once extremely common in the Kurdish region, but WADI’s campaigning has reduced the practice.

Rasul, who herself was cut at a young age, is helping to eradicate FGM in the village of Sharboty Saghira, east of the regional capital, Irbil.

She has visited 25 times, challenging its imam on perceptions FGM is mandated by Islam and warning midwives about infections and emotional trauma.

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Women and young girls listen to Kurdistan Rasul (not pictured), an Iraqi Kurdish activist with the NGO WADI, as she speaks about the harm of genital mutilation in Sharboty Saghira, Iraq, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

That morning, she used the mosque’s minaret to vaguely invite villagers to discuss their health. When eight women entered the mosque, she patiently described FGM’s dangers.

At the end, a thin woman approached Rasul and said her neighbor was planning to mutilate her two toddlers

That sent Rasul clambering up the muddy pathway to the house, first knocking, then frantically demanding to be allowed in.

But the door remained shut.

“We are changing people’s convictions. That’s why it’s so hard,” Rasul told AFP, reluctantly walking away.

‘Just a child’ 

FGM appears to have been practiced for decades in Iraq’s Kurdish region, usually known for more progressive stances on women’s rights.

Victims are usually between 4 and 5 years old but are affected for years by bleeding, extremely reduced sexual sensitivity, tearing during childbirth, and depression.

The procedure can prove fatal, with some girls dying from blood loss or infection.

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Women and young girls listen to Kurdistan Rasul (not pictured), an Iraqi Kurdish activist with the nonprofit organization WADI, as she speaks about the harms of genital mutilation in Sharboty Saghira, Iraq, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

After years of campaigning, Kurdish authorities banned FGM under a 2011 domestic violence law, slapping perpetrators with up to three years in prison and a roughly $80,000 fine.

The numbers have dropped steadily since.

In 2014, a U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF) survey found 58.5 percent of women in the Kurdish region had been mutilated.

This year, UNICEF found a lower rate: 37.5 percent of girls aged 15-49 in the Kurdish region had undergone FGM.

It compares with less than 1 percent across the rest of Iraq, which has no FGM legislation.

“She cut me, I was hurt and cried,” said Shukriyeh, 61, of the day her mother mutilated her more than 50 years ago.

“I was just a child. How could I be angry at my mother?”

Shukriyeh’s six daughters, the youngest of whom is 26, have all been cut, too. But with so much campaigning against FGM, they have declined to do the same to their girls.

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Women and young girls listen to Kurdistan Rasul (not pictured), an Iraqi Kurdish activist with the nonprofit organization WADI, as she speaks about the harms of genital mutilation in Sharboty Saghira, Iraq, Dec. 3, 2018. Female genital mutilation appears to have been practiced for decades in Iraq’s Kurdish region, usually known for more progressive stances on women’s rights. VOA

Years ago, Zeinab, 38. allowed female relatives to cut her eldest daughter, then 3.

“I was so scared that I stayed far away and came to wash her after they cut her,” she recalled, squirming.

After WADI’s sessions, she protected her other two daughters from mutilation.

“At the time I accepted [it], but now I wouldn’t. Yes, I regret it. But what can I do now?”

‘Women against women’

Rasul told AFP it was hard to combat a form of gender-based violence that women themselves practiced.

“Young men and women agree FGM should stop. But after we leave a village, older women talk to them and tell them: ‘Be careful, that NGO wants to spread problems,’ ” she said.

UNICEF’s 2014 survey found 75 percent of women saw their own mothers as the most supportive of cutting.

“I tell these women: This is violence that you’re carrying out with your own hands — women against women,” said Rasul.

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FILE – A badge reads “The power of labor aginst FGM” is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in Cairo, Egypt. VOA

That proximity has also made FGM victims less likely to seek justice.

“The 2011 law isn’t being used because girls won’t file a complaint against their mothers or fathers,” said Parwin Hassan, who heads the Kurdish Regional Government’s anti-FGM unit.

Hassan has wanted to work on the issue since she narrowly escaped it: Her mother pulled her away from their midwife after a last-minute change of heart.

“I’ve been working on women’s issues since 1991, but this is the most painful for me. That’s why I promised to eradicate it completely,” she told AFP.

Also Read: The Risk of FGM Hangs Above British Schoolgirls During Holiday Break

She said Kurdish authorities would unveil a strategy next year to strengthen the 2011 law and carry out more awareness campaigns.

And for its part, the U.N. expects it can better fight FGM in 2019, partly because of the reduced threat posed by the Islamic State group.

After IS emerged in 2014, U.N. agencies scrambled to deal with displaced families and combat operations, said UNICEF gender-based violence specialist Ivana Chapcakova.

“Now that the acute emergency is over, we can regroup to have that final push towards making FGM a thing of the past everywhere in Iraq,” she told AFP. (VOA)