After causing 40,000 deaths, US sanctions on Venezuela now target vital lifeline of cheap food

Collecting CLAP food supplies in Venezuela
John McEvoy

Venezuela’s Local Provisioning and Production Committees (CLAPs) distribute vital packages of government-subsidised food to millions of people across the country each month. But as Reuters reported on 22 May, the US government is now targeting this immense food distribution programme with sanctions.

This tightening US stranglehold on Venezuela comes after a recent report claimed that US sanctions killed 40,000 Venezuelans between 2017 and 2018.

The new sanctions

The Reuters article detailed that:

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The food aid program would be a new target in Washington’s pressure campaign against [elected Venezuelan president Nicolás] Maduro. Since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, his administration has imposed sanctions on dozens of Venezuelan officials as well as companies and other entities.

The idea may have hatched from a Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) article, which recommended in 2018:

the imposition of additional individual sanctions, targeted at those responsible for CLAP operations, as well as the development of a framework to facilitate the delivery of donations and aid.

The CSIS is far from an independent thinktank. As the Grayzone reported in April, it:

hosted a private roundtable… called ‘Assessing the Use of Military Force in Venezuela’.

The attendees included senior US officials and members of coup leader Juan Guaidó‘s self-proclaimed parallel government.

“Sanctions are the direct cause of death”

Hard-right Florida senator Marco Rubio said of the planned sanctions:

These sanctions have not just affected top Venezuelan officials, however. As the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found in April, US sanctions caused the deaths of 40,000 Venezuelans between 2017 and 2018. It added that:

American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela’s economy and thereby lead to regime change. It’s a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.

These remarks echo the words of former UN independent expert Alfred de Zayas, who told The Canary in February:

To the extent that the sanctions are the direct cause of death – maternal mortality, infant mortality, malnutrition, death through lack of access to medicines, insulin, dialysis equipment, etc. they constitute a crime against humanity under article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Politics of starvation

Washington’s decision to target Venezuela’s CLAP programme is nonetheless the most transparent threat of mass starvation yet. For many Venezuelan families, their fortnightly box of CLAP – which generally contains staples like beans, spaghetti, lentils, and corn flour – is their lifeline. As one CLAP organiser told The Canary:

With the economic situation here, the CLAP allows Venezuelans to access basic, affordable food, while not having to worry about currency fluctuations and speculation…

there’s no food crisis. Here you can get the food – the problem is the price. That’s why the CLAPs exist: every Venezuelan has a constitutional right to food. People in regions that don’t yet receive CLAP, moreover, can receive it through their local institutions.

As The Canary recently reported:

The scale of Venezuela’s food distribution project is absolutely immense, and altogether more impressive given its massive volunteer base. If not for the CLAPs, the type of ‘humanitarian crisis’ narrative the corporate media promotes so enthusiastically might well be reality.

Element of truth

The Wall Street Journal, which originally broke the story about Washington’s plans to place additional sanctions on Venezuela, left a key piece of unintended truth in its article. As journalist Dan Cohen noted:

The CLAP programme itself was born of tensions between capitalism and a severe economic crisis in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government launched the programme in 2016, as an economic downturn made food unaffordable for the poorest parts of its population.

Today, as Venezuelans struggle to make ends meet, many blame wealthy and often opposition-aligned shopkeepers for refusing to reduce their prices (and therefore profit margins).

Washington’s latest decision is a clear attack on Venezuela’s poorest people. Like in Yemen, the US government will become complicit in a major humanitarian catastrophe. Tragically, though, the US will not stop punishing ordinary Venezuelans until they cede to the empire’s pressure to topple their elected government.

The latest planned sanctions leave US officials feigning concern for the well-being of Venezuelans with no leg to stand on.

Featured image via author

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