For more than 25 years, the US has been hell-bent on overthrowing the Bolivarian Revolution. Unable to see its surrogates succeed at the polls or trigger an outright coup, Washington settled on a weapon of choice: economic sanctions.

In our recently released publication, A War Without Bombs: The Social, Political and Economic Impact of Sanctions Against Venezuela, we offer an in-depth analysis of Washington’s sanctions program, its deadly consequences as well as grassroots resistance efforts. You can download it here.

A wide-reaching blockade

In 2015, then-US President Barack Obama declared Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security, setting (dubious and absurd) legal grounds for the imposition of economic coercive measures.

Beginning in 2017, the Trump administration thought it could finally remove the Maduro government. It launched wave after wave of sanctions, barring Venezuela from financial markets, blacklisting high-ranking officials and targetting virtually all sectors of the Venezuelan economy, especially the oil industry.

This infographic details the sectors targeted by the US blockade and the impact on the Venezuelan population.

A noose on the oil industry

In an attempt to strangle Venezuela’s main source of foreign income, the US Treasury Department levied financial sanctions (2017), an oil embargo (2019), secondary sanctions (2020) and a raft of other measures against the country’s oil industry.

The measures sent crude output tumbling from nearly two million barrels per day (bpd) all the way down to decades-lows around 350,000 bpd in mid-2020. State oil company PDVSA has since managed to recover production but has yet to break the one million bpd threshold. Estimates of yearly losses of oil revenue vary between $15 and $30 billion.

Check out this infographic to find out more about US sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry. (click to enlarge)

stolen assets

The 2019 self-proclamation of Juan Guaidó’s “interim government” allowed the US and its allies to seize Venezuelan assets abroad. The most high-profile cases involved the UK-held gold reserves, Colombia-based agrochemical producer Monómeros (since returned to the Venezuelan state), and US-based refiner CITGO.

US recognition also meant the Guaidó parallel administration representing Venezuela before US courts. A combination of malpractice, collusion and conflicts of interest has led to a court-ordered auction of CITGO shares to satisfy international arbitration awards that will likely lead to the breakup of the company.

The above image is part of an infographic that breaks down the timeline that led CITGO to the present perilous position and the imminent threats. (click to enlarge)

Deadly consequences

The US sanctions program has had devastating consequences for the Venezuelan people. Former UN Special Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas estimated over 100,000 deaths as a result of sanctions by early 2020. The impact has also been clear in indicators such as undernourishment. At the same time, the US blockade drastically accelerated migration.

The impact of sanctions, as well as their illegal nature under international law, has been repeatedly denounced by multilateral organizations, human rights experts and even Democratic House members.

However, with the media establishment cheering sanctions and whitewashing effects, the Biden administration has shown no desire to undo his predecessor’s “maximum pressure” blockade. Instead, Washington is more inclined to use sanctions as a weapon to blackmail the Venezuelan government and secure licenses for corporations in very favorable terms.

Grassroots Resistance

The economic crisis and US-led sanctions have dealt hard blows to the dynamic and revolutionary Bolivarian grassroots movements. However, far from assuming them as passive victims, many working-class Venezuelans have regrouped into communes and reinvented themselves to move forward and uphold Hugo Chávez’s socialist project.

At Venezuelanalysis, we have been covering communal construction in times of imperialist siege with our Communal Resistance Series.

The ultimate guide on sanctions

Do you want to learn a bit more about sanctions? Watch this Venezuelanalysis production to get a full picture of the impact of Washington’s collective punishment of Venezuelans.

A war without bombs

In September 2023, Venezuelanalysis published A War Without Bombs: The Social, Political and Economic Impact of Sanctions Against Venezuela. It aims to provide readers, internationalists and solidarity activists with the tools to understand (and collectively revert) the devastating impact of the blockade on the people of Venezuela. 

This publication features essays, infographics and interviews with expert analysts to expose the mechanics of sanctions, their impact and the geopolitical implications. It likewise includes testimonies of popular resistance from Bolivarian grassroots organizations. Below you can read the book or download it as a pdf.