So the talk is on sanctions again since the US/Trump have announced that they are considering strong sanctions if Maduro insists on electing a constitutional assembly next Sunday.
What I am dismayed for is to read that some people that should know better do not want sanctions. One example is Moises Naím who is usually so right on things but who is not quite this time around (1). The argument advanced by those who oppose sanctions are that 1) they do not work 2) they hurt the population more than the regime and 3) they can boost the regime if this one can wrap itself in the flag of nationalism.
Yes and no, and the more so in the case of Venezuela. Let's try to clarify ideas as I did for the electoral fraud of next Sunday.
We cannot judge Venezuelan situation on the basis of other examples because the conditions are unique. Venezuela is actually a war torn economy upon which not a single bomb has fallen. As such the population is already going through lack of food, lack of medicine, lack of basic services, and all getting worse by the day. Any of those refusing sanctions should explain to us how things can get much worse. Yes, they can, we can get outright killed but that could also happen without sanctions.
Would sanctions work? It depends on two things, which type of sanction and the will to enforce them. I agree with Naim on this part: for Trump to stop Venezuelan oil imports would not do much and if anything gain sympathy for the regime. But there are other options with oil. The one I would like is to forbid the sale of gasoline and gasoline components to Venezuela. The shortages of gas would certainly affect us a lot, but would also affect the regime a lot. It would be difficult for the regime to replace its US purchases because they would need to sell oil to the US, get paid and only then buy cash in hand from other countries since the regime has no more credit. Buying gas and condiments to the US can be a much easier swap, faster to obtain for a country who lacks of everything but gas. You know where our priorities are.......
But I digress. My point is that there are different type of sanctions, some that may actually be more effective than stopping oil purchases. It could be even as simple as a 2 dollar tax per barrel on Venezuelan import to finance shale oil exploration. Venezuela financing the competition that would put it out of the market. No embargo, we can still sell oil to the US.....
But would those sanctions be used effectively by the regime? At first maybe. But a little bit only. The regime has spent so much time attacking the evil empire in the North and yet nobody associates the current crisis with the United States. Well, outside of the yellow dog chavistas. What worked for the Castros will not work as easily for chavismo. Too many inside chavismo are aware that the crisis comes from the corruption and incompetence and the "I do not give a shit" attitude of the camarilla around Maduro and the army. On this I am not as sanguine as Moises Naim. The regime has wrapped itself too much around the flag for 18 years. The poor thing is just worn out.
Finally the "it does not work" argument. Well, it did work for South Africa. The salt boycott of India is a strategy that a determined people can use though in Venezuela people hate sacrifices of any type: pais de antojados. It failed in Cuba because the US made it unilateral without managing to get real allies first, a mistake it did not do with Iran or Russia.
I suppose that what I am trying to say is that sanctions would more likely fail because of the nature of the Venezuelan people than the sanctions themselves. We do not want to suffer even though we self inflicted our current suffering. But it is "ours" so at some level people do not mind as much as they should. I know, there is no logic but that is the way people are here. My house keeper speaks volumes against Maduro and food shortages. And yet she has to go to her first protest march. She has no time. She is afraid of tear gas. She does not fit in. She whatever excuse, but I have heard her swear at Maduro when she comes back from a food line empty handed. Go figure.
So what to do? Sanctions we must receive. But they should be bold and harsh against anyone in the regime, the type of sanctions that will make it impossible for them to leave Venezuela or enjoy the loot outside of Venezuela. Also Venezuela should be excluded from as many organizations as possible under the excuse of pariah state. These humiliations will pay off. Mercosur is already on its way to boot Venezuela out.
Unfortunately there will be a need for sanctions that piss off el pueblo, who will be hurt anyway by the sanctions against the regime personnel who will try to compensate their overseas losses by further looting inside. In Cuba the people never had a choice as to whether support Castro against the US and the embargo. In Venezuela we still can do it and should be told so.
So, messers Trump and Rubio, bring sanctions out. Just do not start with oil embargo.
1) While I was looking for the reference for the Naim article I fell upon this pretty despicable piece of anti Semitic garbage. The web page Entorno Inteligente that once upon a time was worth checking up has become a haven of the worst kind of chavismo. That entry shows you how far on the deep end chavismo has gone.