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Trump’s Despicable Venezuela Embargo

The president is dooming countless innocent people in Venezuela to die from hunger and preventable disease.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the Trump administration’s plan to impose a total economic embargo on Venezuela:

The Trump administration is moving to impose a total economic embargo against the government of Venezuela, a significant escalation of pressure against the regime of President Nicolás Maduro and countries including Russia and China that continue to support him, a senior administration official said.

President Trump late Monday signed an executive order freezing all government assets and prohibiting transactions with it, unless specifically exempted, the first action of its kind against a government in the Western Hemisphere in more than 30 years. The move places Venezuela on a par with North Korea, Iran, Syria and Cuba, the only other countries currently under such stringent U.S. measures.

This is the “blockade” that Trump hinted at last week. It is a drastic escalation of the economic war that the U.S. is already waging against the country, and it will do tremendous harm to the civilian population. Economic embargoes are very effective in depriving ordinary people of necessities and cutting them off from the outside world. As the Cuba embargo has proven, they do not lead to the overthrow or weakening of the government. On the contrary, the more isolated and cut off from the rest of the world a country becomes the more power that gives a government and its cronies.

Trump’s despicable embargo is not the military blockade that he seemed to be suggesting last week, but it is no less destructive and horrible in its effects. By doing this, the president is dooming countless innocent people in Venezuela to die from hunger and preventable disease. The U.S. government is deliberately employing starvation as a weapon to pursue regime change in a neighboring country. There are few more reprehensible and unjust actions that our government can take against another country.

We know from the administration’s use of sanctions against Iran that humanitarian trade will be strangled by these measures. There is no way that the civilian population won’t be harmed by embargoing all business with the government, especially when it is the government that pays to bring in imports. The article concludes:

Outside observers also warn that sweeping sanctions and secondary sanctions on Venezuela could exacerbate the economic crisis and lend Mr. Maduro ammunition to blame Washington for the nation’s woes.

The action the U.S. is set to take grants some 21 exemptions to international and nongovernmental organizations for services such as humanitarian goods, mail, food, medicine and the internet.

However, experts said that this rarely works in practice.

“The administration hasn’t been very good at dedicating financial lines that would allow the purchase of food and medicine in sanctioned countries,” said Jeffrey Schott, an economic-sanctions expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank. “In practice, we still block food and medicine because the parties in the targeted regime that want to import it can’t get financing.”

As Brian Hook said about Iran, “The burden is not on the United States to identify the safe channels.” The Trump administration won’t feel any obligation to identify safe channels for humanitarian trade with Venezuela, either. Sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector were already propelling Venezuela towards a famine. A total embargo accelerates that process. Trump’s Venezuela policy amounts to starving the Venezuelan people to death to save them. It is criminal and outrageous, and Congress and the public must fight back against it.