President Barack Obama speaks from the United Community Center Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Milwaukee, Wis. The President traveled to Milwaukee to celebrate the cityâs victory in the Healthy Communities Challenge, a competition between 20 cities to increase the number of Americans with health insurance during the latest Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment period. Milwaukee is a great example of how communities can come together to ensure that Americans have the health care they deserve, and the President looks forward to visiting the city and meeting with people who have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act.(AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
President Barack Obama on Thursday extended for one year an executive order declaring the situation in Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security, saying conditions there had not improved and that the country's leftist-led government was continuing to erode human rights guarantees.
The Obama administration first issued the executive order against crisis-hit Venezuela in March of last year, at which time it ordered sanctions against seven officials in that country, whose economy has been battered by the steep drop in global oil prices.
In renewing the order, the president mentioned the same list of abuses cited last year: persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations.
The U.S. head of state also said Venezuela was continuing to experience abuses in response to protests against President Nicolas Maduro, arbitrary arrests of anti-government protestors and significant public corruption by senior government officials.
In renewing the measure, Obama reiterated that the situation in Venezuela constituted an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States" and that he was declaring a "national emergency" to counter that threat.
That language was included once again even though Obama said last April in an exclusive interview with EFE that "we do not believe that Venezuela poses a threat to the United States, nor does the United States threaten the Venezuelan government."
The "national emergency" declaration is a tool U.S. presidents possess that allows them to impose sanctions on a country under certain circumstances and go beyond what Congress has approved.
The executive order also authorizes the Treasury Department to impose additional sanctions on those found to have committed either "actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions" or rights violations against persons involved in anti-government protests, the White House said.