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World Association of International Studies

Post Are Sanctions against Venezuela Effective?
Created by John Eipper on 10/11/18 5:00 AM

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Are Sanctions against Venezuela Effective? (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 10/11/18 5:00 am)

In the context of the recent WAIS discussion on sanctions, it is worthwhile to mention US sanctions on Venezuela.

Obama and later Trump have imposed very specific sanctions on Venezuelan public servants and high-ranking government officials, including Maduro and his wife.

More than 40 individuals and 15 Venezuelan trading companies connected to these people have been sanctioned in several ways, by freezing their assets in US jurisdictional territories, or cancelling their US visas. Similar sanctions have also been imposed by the EU, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland and Panama. Other diplomatic sanctions were imposed by other Latin American countries.

This year, Trump also banned any US individual or organization from trading in Venezuelan bonds and the Venezuelan crypto-currency, the Petro. The ban includes buying, selling, or using them as guarantees for any Venezuelan asset in US territory. These sanctions have not been directed against the population. However, ordinary Venezuelans might be affected indirectly, particularly if the government has limited access to international financial credit under the current critical scarcity.

Some questions arise. Have these sanctions been genuine "acts of war"? Have they been effective in weakening and potentially removing the regime? What other "sanctions" could be imposed?

I do not believe they have been "acts of war." Individual sanctions are punishment and retaliation for specific alleged and well-substantiated crimes committed by these people--corruption, drug trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, and so on. In general, sanctions might be considered acts of aggression in response to "unfriendly" attitudes. Are they right or fair? Sometimes they are not, but they nonetheless often have dramatic effects on populations. Still, to consider them "acts of war" is perhaps exaggerated.

Yet the sanctions have not weakened the Venezuelan regime. Rather, the government has used these "counter-revolutionary" steps to blame the US and other capitalist countries for the current situation. This is a venerable and easy excuse, pretty much the same tactic that Cuba used with the American blockade.

In general, there are conditions that neutralize the effects of international sanctions. These include a strong autocratic government with rigid ideology, a partial support of the population, poor education, and insufficient information. Most importantly, the Venezuelan regime enjoys the "unconditional" support of other international powers: Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, and other autocratic governments in the region.

What other sanctions might be imposed to achieve effective results? Probably none without affecting the population directly. Examples of this would be an embargo on Venezuelan oil, or limiting supplies, input, and materials to the local oil industry.

So are the international sanctions useless? Not at all. I believe economic and diplomatic sanctions might be effective in the long term, if they are the product of an international consensus strategically agreed upon. But if they are only unilateral and isolated, they might be hard and unlikely to get results.

JE comments: And at present (this has to be said), the US lacks the moral authority to stand up against strongmen.  What's more, our current president seems to be fond of them.  Envious, even?

José Ignacio Soler is in a unique situation among WAISers:  he's currently experiencing the effects of sanctions.  Looking forward to your future reports, Nacho.

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