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Trump’s Cruel Venezuela Sanctions

The New York Timesreports on Venezuela’s imploding economy and the role of U.S. sanctions in worsening conditions:

The sanctions have accelerated Venezuela’s vicious economic cycle, where declining oil exports leave Mr. Maduro with less money to invest in basic services. That, in turn, further degrades oil production, according to Siobhan Morden, an emerging markets strategist at the Nomura investment bank in New York.

“This multiplier feedback effect is very powerful and affects almost everyone” in Venezuela, she said. “The impact is going to be horrific.”

When it is our government’s policy to starve another country of resources, it is only a matter of time before the population experiences the horrific impact of sanctions. Economic warfare against Venezuela probably won’t produce the regime change that the administration wants, and in the meantime the effort to oust Maduro comes at the expense of increasing the population’s already terrible suffering. As bad as Venezuela’s economic and humanitarian crises were before, the Trump administration is deliberately making them worse in a bid to force a change in government. Deepening the misery of an entire country that has already been made miserable by the failures of its own government is cruel and wrong, and it makes our government partly responsible for depriving the population of basic necessities.

In a recent column, Jackson Diehl referred to the destructive effect that sanctions will have on Venezuela’s food and medicine supply:

Oil exports — the country’s only significant source of hard currency — are plummeting. According to Russ Dallen of Caracas Capital, they fell from 1.15 million barrels a day in January to 650,000 barrels a day in the first half of March — or 43 percent. If that continues, Venezuelan imports of food and medicine, already disastrously insufficient, will drop off a cliff [bold mine-DL].

The U.S. has supported the Saudis and Emiratis as they have blockaded and starved Yemen for years, and now our government is helping to drive Venezuela towards famine as well. As horrifying as this is, what makes it even worse is that the sanctions aren’t even likely to cause Maduro’s downfall. David Cohen writes:

Although there is little doubt that U.S. sanctions are exacerbating the dreadful economic situation in Venezuela, it is hard to imagine President Nicolás Maduro relinquishing power to relieve the sanctions pressure. The Maduro regime may fall, but if it does, the Trump administration’s unilateral sanctions are unlikely to be the cause.

Cohen linked to a Miami Herald article from earlier this month on the effect of sanctions on Venezuela’s economy. This section is worth quoting:

The deep and biting economic measures are predicated on the idea that Maduro will fall quickly and interim President Juan Guaidó — recognized by Washington and more than 50 countries — can form a transitional government and call new elections, said Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based analyst with the Crisis Group.

“But what if the plan doesn’t work? Suppose the government holds on and then you’ve duplicated the suffering and you haven’t solved the problem,” he said. “The prospect that it can be apocalyptic but not produce an outcome can be quite scary.”

Right now the U.S. is contributing to the further devastation of a country that was being driven into a ditch. The administration didn’t have to do this, but it chose to take sides in an internal crisis and intentionally made things worse in the hopes of achieving its political goals. As a result, the Trump administration will increasingly own the crisis that it decided to intensify, and the U.S. will be held responsible for adding to the Venezuelan people’s woes.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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