Tuesday, July 25, 2017

To sanction, or not

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.


  1. The last link in your article doesn't point to Entorno Inteligente but to el pais..

  2. Sanctions are ok, but there are much more effective actions which can be taken in early August.

  3. As Luis Almagro warned Marco Rubio, foreign action will not overthrow this dictatorship without dropping bombs. Venezuela is not Panama of 1989. The dictatorship needs to be ended from within Venezuela. Sanctions will allow the dictatorship to blame the US like Cuba has blamed the US and make the dictatorship stronger.

    The best suggestion I read has been to force Venezuela to take food for the oil. Sell us a million dollars in oil and we will deliver a million dollars in chicken, rice and wheat. Provide Venezuela a chinese menu checklist. 1 ton rice = $2,000, 1 ton chicken = $2,400, etc.

    If Venezuela wants to buy Scotch, tear gas, or tires for their armored vehicles, they can get them from somewhere else.

    The US sanctioned Somoza and Batista in the same manner, and they soon fell.

    1. ..."If Venezuela wants to buy Scotch, tear gas, or tires for their armored vehicles, they can get them from somewhere else."

      That should be the center of the sanctions and then expand them to whatever institution(s) is touched by the purchase and or use of such items. Sorta like "6-degrees of Kevin Bacon" game. The U.S. is contemplating such an approach with China & North Korea.

    2. The best course of action is for the USA to use the Tobar doctrine, not recognize the Constituyente regime, and recognize the Ortega/National Assembly duo. This is feasible provided that Ortega and the AN agree to mutually support each other, with Ortega assuming executive role for an interim period until elections are held.

      To understand the legal basis you have to study case law and history, but looking up Tobar doctrine is a good start. Unfortunately, for this to be effective the USA needs the 13 OAS nations willing to go hard core on Maduro to apply the doctrine. And who knows if they can get the Europeans and the Japanese to come along, Maduro p, el Aussami, and Cabello will flee. And that's the light at the end of the tunnel.

    3. Wouldnt the regime just treat that the same as sanctions on the country. As long as the regime has the support of the military (whose leaders are all in as deep as anyone) then they will carry on. They really have no care for the people and hence happy to sacrifice them. Between drugs, russia and china they can pay all that are needed. The only payment that will get dropped would be repaying the bond debt which is help by or controlled by the elite rich who ultimately control the very governments who would need to carry this out.

  4. Further no sanctions matter. There is nothing the civilized world can or will do that changes anything in Venezuela. The corrupt regime makes more then enough money from drugs and Russia and China to live happily ever after. One thing and one thing only changes Venezuela and that is a civil war by the people sacrificing lives to take back their country. It has been successfully conquered by Cuba and only that one solution exists. Stike Nd protest forever if it makes you feel better but if not stay home or move to better lands.

  5. Anonymous4:14 PM

    Condition Oil Sales on payment being made in the form of humanitarian goods. Food, Medicine etc. This way the country still can do business with the US and the money goes directly to EL Pueblo in the areas that they need it most. .Food and Medicine...


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