The US steps up its brutal economic war on Venezuela with yet more sanctions

Bolton, Trump and Pompeo walking
Peter Bolton

With the Venezuelan coup attempt now over a month in, the US has hit the oil-rich country with a new round of sanctions.

The Trump administration is clearly going into overdrive to topple the democratically elected government of President Nicolás Maduro. But this tactic is nothing new. Because economic warfare by the US and its local allies via harmful sanctions and other means has been going on for years.

The latest US aggression

On 25 February, the US Treasury Department announced that it would apply new sanctions on Venezuelan officials aligned with Maduro’s government. It blamed the four targeted politicians for blocking ‘humanitarian aid‘ into Venezuela while accusing them of “endemic corruption”. Unlike previous targeting of central government figures, the latest sanctions apply to state governors.

As The Canary has previously reported, there are widespread concerns that the US and its allies are using aid as a ruse to further their interventionist aims in Venezuela. Alleged war criminal Elliott Abrams, for example, is Trump’s Venezuela liaison; and he used ‘humanitarian aid’ to ship weapons to far-right death squads in the 1980s.

The UN has expressed concern about the politicization of aid and – along with the International Red Cross – is refusing to participate in Washington’s efforts. The Red Cross has also slammed “people not affiliated” with it for falsely using its emblems.

“Deliberate homicide”

The sanctions add to a long list of US measures to destabilize Venezuela’s democratically elected government. In 2015, the Obama administration bizarrely declared the country a ‘threat to US national security’ despite it (unlike the US) not being at war with anyone. The US later applied other sanctions to members of Maduro’s cabinet based on dubious accusations of involvement in drug trafficking.

A financial embargo soon followed. This has crippled the Venezuelan economy, worsening a severe economic crisis and making it impossible for the Maduro government to either stabilize the economy or restructure its debt. Oil production, meanwhile, nose-dived as the sanctions began.

Most recently, the Trump administration levied devastating economic sanctions against Venezuela’s state oil sector, PDVSA. As a result, oil production has plummeted to historic lows, further adding to the country’s economic ills. According to former UN rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, Washington’s measures could amount to a crime against humanity. He stated earlier this month:

This is deliberate homicide, this is murder, this is a crime against humanity

Hypocritical destabilization strategy

Even if the most overblown caricature of Venezuela was accurate, Washington’s sanctions would still be (at best) jaw-droppingly hypocritical. Because while the US claims the country has become a ‘narco-state’, it has turned a blind eye to clear involvement with drug-trafficking by allies in Colombia, Honduras and (up until recently) Mexico.

It’s unlikely that human rights really matter to Washington, either. Not when it has generously funded all of those governments in spite of their state security forces’ horrific records of violence and murder against civilians.

And as for US claims that its coup attempt is to ‘return democracy’ to Venezuela, its acceptance of the allegedly fraudulent 2017 elections in Honduras quickly exposes Washington’s lack of regard for democracy. As does its firm defense of dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.

Unacceptable disobedience to the superpower

Clearly, the sanctions against Venezuela aren’t about Washington’s humanitarian, human rights or democratic concerns. It’s Venezuela’s disobedience to US power and neoliberalism that motivates US hostility. Caracas challenged US dominance in its ‘backyard’, and Washington was not happy about that. There is apparently no depth to which the US will not stoop in its hell-bent drive to rid the hemisphere of any shred of resistance to its elitist agenda.

US sanctions are an outrage. And we must speak out against them. We must also keep exposing Washington’s self-serving double standards for the whole world to see.

Featured image via Ramon Espinosa/ and US Department of State/Wikimedia Commons

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  • Support Witness for Peace in its campaigns for peace and social justice in Latin America. You can also travel on one its many delegations to the region.

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