Facing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently, Samantha Power, President Barack Obama’s nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, surely didn’t expect to stir up the proverbial hornet’s nest.

Power told the committee that as America’s U.N. envoy, she believed in “contesting” what she described as a “crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia and Venezuela.”

That was truthful, if not exactly an exercise in delicate diplomacy, and it enraged Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, the hand-picked successor of the late Hugo Chavez, the flamboyantly anti-American socialist.

He demanded an apology.

Maduro, a former bus driver who was elected in April after Chavez’ death, had called for improved relations with Washington.

The United States needn’t apologize for Power’s accurate characterization of Venezuela.

We suspect all this will fade away. Despite the ill will generated by Chavez, the United States remains a critical trading partner for Venezuela. And the United States is a major importer of Venezuela’s major export, oil.

Maduro’s tough talk probably is no more than that. In any event, such threats shouldn’t keep American diplomats from calling out oppressive regimes, however thin-skinned they may be.

— The Tampa Tribune, Florida, July 29

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