President Bush decided Wednesday to waive any financial sanctions on
Saudi Arabia, Washington's closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism, for failing
to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers
and forced laborers.
In June, the State Department listed 14 countries as failing to adequately
address trafficking problems, subjecting them all to possible sanctions if they
did not crack down.
Of those 14, Bush concluded that Bolivia, Jamaica, Qatar, Sudan, Togo and the
United Arab Emirates had made enough improvements to avoid any cut in U.S. aid
or, in the case of countries that get no American financial assistance, the
barring of their officials from cultural and educational events, said Darla
Jordan, a State Department spokeswoman.
Cambodia and Venezuela were not considered to have made similar adequate improvements.
But Bush cleared them nonetheless to receive limited assistance, for such things
as combatting trafficking. In the case of Venezuela — which has had a
tense relationship with the United States under the leadership of President
Hugo Chavez, one of Latin America's most outspoken critics of U.S. foreign policy
— Bush also allowed funding for strengthening the political party system
and supporting electoral observation.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Kuwait — another U.S.
ally in the Middle East — were given a complete pass on any sanctions,
Jordan said. Despite periodic differences, oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United
States have a tight alliance built on economic and military cooperation.
That left Myanmar, Cuba and North Korea as the only nations in the
list of 14 barred completely from receiving certain kinds of foreign aid. The
act does not include cutting off trade assistance or humanitarian aid, Jordan
The White House statement offered no explanation of why countries were regarded
differently. Jordan also could not provide one.
As many as 800,000 people are bought and sold across national borders
annually or lured to other countries with false promises of work or other benefits,
according to the State Department. Most are women and children.