Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 in review part 5: did international sanctions work?

More and more people are questioning the results of over a year of sanctions against the Maduro regime. Are they right?

Let's start with the obvious: many that uphold that view are either trying to make deals with the regime, or are from the democratic left who still harbor the hope that there is a remaining democratic fiber inside chavismo. Other people that may discuss the shortcomings of the sanctions do so with the idea on replacing them with something more effective or stronger, not questioning the need to get rid of Maduro's regime.

Let's be factual.

Sanctions are no enough. If there is a failing is that too many thought that sanctions would be enough. Well, they are not. And, anyway, these sanctions were not hard enough, or fast enough.

People say sanctions have brought suffering to the Venezuelan people. They have not. Maybe the stress on our people increased because of them, but the suffering we endure started before the first sanction was taken. And let's not forget that the regime has taken no measure to alleviate that suffering, measures it could have taken. For example there is no ban on importing food and medicines as can be seen recently for food in the bodegones phenomenon. This illustrates that some common sense policies could have been taken as soon as sanctions came. Had the regime kept the well being of its people at heart, things would not be as bad as they are.

Sanctions have been targeted at the regime personnel. They are not directed against Venezuela. The ban to US companies is on dealing with Venezuela government (AGAIN: excepted for food and medicine). The regime has been able to triangulate its revenues courtesy of Russia, India, Turkey and China.  But that triangulation was for the regime benefit, not for el pueblo. (1)

So why sanctions have not lived up to their promise?

First, the cowardice of many.  The US and Canada have taken the strongest measures. Europe a distant second and Latin America barely a whimper.  That simplifies the autocrats friendly to Maduro to bypass some of these sanctions, making them less effective.

Second, the sanctions are late in being comprehensive. For example it is not enough for General X to be in a list of sanctioned people: the sanction must include all the close relatives that can be tracked (and more).  The more so that General X has probably quite a network of front men.  Progress on this regard is made but not fast enough.

Third, sanction should be more explicit. Consequences of sanctions should be made more clear, like what happens if a sanctioned individual lands in the wrong airport, or what (will) happen(s) to the confiscated money.

And more, but you get the point.

Sanctions must continue, and be strengthened and carried by more countries. But more than sanctions to Venezuela should be done. For example, threatening Russia or Turkey with sanctions over Venezuela, amen of China.  But we know this will not happen, the others only too happy to let the US deal with the Venezuelan problem.


1) certainly sanctions can affect indirectly certain activities because US companies may be afraid to break the sanction rules and prefer to altogether avoid any deal with Venezuela. This also affect non US companies who want to do business with US companies. But the fact remain that food and medicine can be brought from the US, as well as humanitarian help. This help is withheld for political interests of the regime who would like very much the help given to them rather independently distributed.

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