Bogota, November 9 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Twenty-eight EU ambassadors voted Wednesday to impose an arms embargo against Venezuela, as well as to lay the basis for individual sanctions against government officials. Meanwhile, the Trump administration sanctioned ten more representatives from the Nicolas Maduro government Thursday.
The EU sanctions against Venezuela are expected to be signed off by the bloc’s foreign ministers on November 13, when they will meet in the Belgian capital.
“The steps were approved today, paving the way for approval next Monday,” an anonymous EU diplomat told the press Wednesday.
Reuters has reported that the EU arms embargo and sanctions are already done deal, while ministerial approval is nothing more than a formality.
If approved, the measures will mean that Venezuelan government officials could be targeted for travel bans and asset freezes within the EU, while member states will be banned from selling arms and surveillance equipment to the Nicolas Maduro administration. Britain is reportedly a significant arms supplier to Venezuela.
Critics of the measures, including US intellectual giant Noam Chomsky, have branded the move as hypocritical.
“The idea of imposing an arms embargo on Venezuela while refusing to impose one on Saudi Arabia is beyond parody, not least because of Saudi Arabia’s murderous assault on Yemen, which has created one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world,” he said.
Spain has long been lobbying for sanctions against the Venezuelan government, which it accuses of being dictatorial, but has reportedly met opposition from left-leaning states such as Portugal.
Earlier in September, the 526 MEPs voted to approve a resolution refusing to recognize the decisions taken by Venezuela’s elected National Constituent Assembly (ANC) and calling on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to consider asset freezes and travel restriction against Venezuelan government officials. The resolution was opposed by 96 MEPs while 59 abstained.
According to press reports, the EU ambassadors chose to press ahead with the measures Wednesday in response to the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s surprise win in state-governor elections on October 15. The elections saw the PSUV take eighteen governorships while just five went to the opposition coalition, whose supporters failed to turn out to vote.
Europa Press reported Wednesday that EU governments believed the sanctions to be an “instrument” to “force significant negotiations” between the Venezuelan government and the opposition. The Venezuelan opposition coalition known as the MUD walked out of internationally mediated talks in the Dominican Republic in September and until this Thursday had refused to go back to the negotiating table. MUD congressman Luis Florido told press Thursday that the coalition was “ready” to dialogue with the government.
The potential EU sanctions and arms embargo came less than 24 hours before the US Treasury also announced that it would sanction ten more individuals in the Maduro government.
A US treasury statement claimed the government officials were “associated with undermining electoral processes, media censorship, or corruption in government-administered food programs in Venezuela”.
The sanctioned individuals include Venezuelan Culture Minister Ernesto Villegas, Minister for Urban Agriculture Freddy Bernal, National Electoral Council Rectors Sandra Oblitas and Socorro Hernandez, as well as the recently dismissed ANC vice-president and standing ambassador to Italy, Isaias Rodriguez.
The measures are the latest in a series of actions taken by the US targeting the Venezuelan government.
In August the US Trump administration expanded on individual sanctions against scores of Venezuelan officials previously approved by his government and the Barack Obama administration to include economic sanctions. The measures prevent US banks and other financial agencies from lending or renegotiating already existing financial agreements held with the Venezuelan government.
In 2015 Obama issued an executive order declaring Venezuela to be a “threat to US national security”. Critics such as US economist Mark Weisbrot called the move absurd at the time.
At the beginning of November, Canada also sanctioned a second round of Venezuelan officials, including Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, citing unsubstantiated claims of fraud in October’s elections.
The Trudeau government initially hit forty Venezuelan officials with travel bans and asset freezes in September.