International Opposition to the ‘Military Option’ and Sanctions Against Venezuela May Be Gaining Strength

Is the international balance of forces regarding Venezuela sanctions changing, asks Steve Ellner.

US sanctions

Several developments point to a reaction against loose, imprudent talk of a military solution to the situation in Venezuela. A recent article in the New York Times titled “Trump Administration Discussed Coup Plans with Rebel Venezuelan Officers” criticized the U.S. government for encouraging coup plotters in the Venezuelan military.

Furthermore, Spain’s recently elected prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has assumed a position on Venezuela that is closer to that of his Socialist Party predecessor, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who opposes sanctions and calls for dialogue, than to Felipe González with his hard line opposition to the Maduro government.

Mexico’s president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has made clear his intention to restore his country’s principle established by the revolution of 1910 and embodied in its constitution of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

The situation in the US Democratic Party, which just gained control of the lower house of congress, also points to possible changes, even though historically the differences between it and the Republican Party on foreign policy are often minimal. The Democrats object to Trump’s sanctions against Iran since the agreement with that nation, which Washington has just torn up, was an initiative of their fellow party member, President Obama. The mainstream media such as the New York Times, which is close to the Democrats, are now publicizing the fact that the sanctions have a widespread effect throughout the world. For instance, even though Great Britain and France oppose the sanctions, oil companies Shell and Total respectively have announced they will not import Iranian oil out of fear of reprisals.

US sanctions against Venezuela have had the same effect, even though they have not received as much publicity up until now. The decision of companies like Ford and Kimberly Clark to pull out of the country followed Obama’s decree declaring Venezuela a threat to US national security, while General Motors and Kellogg’s did the same following Trump’s sanctions.

Furthermore, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin’s activities purportedly designed to discover the hidden financial accounts of sanctioned Venezuelan officials, and then to freeze them, discourage companies throughout the world from doing business with all Venezuelans.  

Whether or not the Democrats, and perhaps a sector of the Republican Party, take up the issue remains to be seen. But changes are underway which may shed international light on how unilateral sanctions have always contributed to considerable suffering in those countries where they have been applied. And they may pave the way for initiatives involving Washington in favor of dialogue between the Venezuelan government and those in the opposition who are open to the idea.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.