Sanctions Don’t Help the Venezuelan People

The endless string of sanctions imposed on Venezuela first by the US and later by the EU and Canada has irreversible consequences.

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaking at a rally. (Archive)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaking at a rally. (Archive)
By Guadalupe de la Torre
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The financial blockade imposed on the Latin American nation is achieving its principal objective: to isolate Venezuela. However, the sanctions are also gradually creating open wounds within Venezuelan society. Wounds that are increasingly deeper that can’t be repaired so easily.

Although the administration of Donald Trump wants us to believe that these measures are the best option for the Venezuelan people, reality proves the contrary. Economic sanctions do nothing other than endanger those who have the least in society.

The US with the EU as its sidekick has already warned that they continue considering the implementation of additional measures to be taken against Venezuela.

Sanctions not only affect their target, which in this case is the Maduro government, but also businesses and exporters who face new difficulties when trying to access international markets. And as a consequence, the people are also punished. 

Seemingly, all sanctions imposed until now have not achieved what they sought out to.  Or perhaps, they’re still unaware of what they wish to achieve through the use of these measures.

What remains clear is this: they have every intention of continuing to meddle in Venezuelan affairs. Under the auspices of wanting to help the Venezuelan people, the US is fostering need and suffering in order to fuel their own geopolitical needs, a strategy which comes naturally to them.

The discourse of the US president is clear: sanctions against Venezuela are the perfect tool to weaken the Maduro government and force it out of power.

But in practice, their efficacy is not so evident. Criticisms of US sanctions against Venezuela are nothing new, nor are they exclusive to the situation in this country alone. These measures represent a central component of US foreign policy that has been questioned many times over the years. In this particular case, many specialists have already asserted that sanctions are not effective. 

One critic, Luis Vicente León, assured that sanctions don’t punish the government, but the whole country. In other words, sanctions not only affect their target, which in this case is the Maduro government, but also businesses and exporters who face new difficulties when trying to access international markets. And as a consequence, the people are also punished. 

If the government doesn’t have the cash that it needs to pay for food and medicine, citizens are unable to access such goods.

The shortages in pharmacies and hospitals are becoming more and more evident, as is the shortage of food and other basic products. According to the latest figures, the level of medicine shortage in Venezuela has reached 80%. 

The question, therefore, is to what extent are US sanctions helping to revert this situation? US authorities attempt to hide the drastic consequences sanctions are having on society, claiming they make up part of a plan that in the long term will benefit Venezuela.  However, it’s no longer clear that this is the case.

Perhaps this argument was effective in the beginning to convince the world that the US was genuinely concerned about the situation.

But today, it has become evident that this was just a speech aimed at gaining more influence in the region, forcing other countries to turn against Maduro and thus isolating Venezuela and its people.

As the US continues to demonstrate the reach of their sanctions, the crisis becomes deeper, testing how far society can cope.

There are no doubts that new measures are needed to assist Venezuela. Measures, not sanctions. There is no such thing as an economic sanction that only affects the government without endangering the livelihood of the people.

History has already demonstrated that economic blockades are not effective when it comes to forcing governments out of power.

If the government doesn’t have the cash that it needs to pay for food and medicine, citizens are unable to access these goods.

In other words, the shortage becomes more profound, as do the effects on well-being, among a population who find themselves deprived of basic resources that are necessary for everyday survival. In the words of David Smilde, an expert from the Washington Office for Latin American Affairs, there is no way to implement sanctions so that they only affect governments.

History has already demonstrated that economic blockades are not effective when it comes to forcing governments out of power. The example of Cuba is enough evidence to show that the more Trump fights to remove Maduro from the government through sanctions that are becoming increasingly stronger, the less likely he will be to achieve this.

And his attempt will not only fail, but it will leave an indelible mark upon Venezuelan society:  a mark that only those who feel it will be able to understand it. Nobody other than the Venezuelans themselves have the right to decide about their future.

The wellbeing of an entire country is at stake. Meanwhile, Trump keeps playing the tough guy. Perhaps, in this case, he will encounter a surprise, because Venezuelans are tougher and won’t give up so easily.  

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