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Capital paralysis: The scope and impact of Washington-imposed sanctions on Venezuela in the context of international law

 

 

By Richard Balzano, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

 

ABSTRACT: This work presents a comprehensive definition of modern sanctions through a synthesis of scholarly interpretations, followed by an outline of international legislation pertaining to sanctions and collective punishment, and a scope and evolutionary sequence of Washington-imposed sanctions on Venezuela. The article then explores the polarized arguments for the causes of Venezuela’s economic crisis and makes a determination that Washington-imposed sanctions cross the threshold of international law. While a case can (and should) be made that sanctions are issued in concert with “democratic intervention” (subversion) and a collaborative Washington-media narrative to hyperbolize Venezuela’s economic state as a means to make intervention palatable to domestic and international observers, those elements are introduced but that determination is outside the scope of this article. 

 

Washington’s twenty-first century hostilities toward the Bolivarian government of Venezuela have manifested in policies of “democratic intervention” through subversive use of non-governmental organizations, attempts at diplomatic isolation, frequent posturing towards military intervention, and economic hostilities including the use of unilateral sanctions that have exacerbated ongoing economic challenges. Washington contends that the Bolivarian government is an authoritarian regime in a state of humanitarian crisis whose economy is run aground by corruption, economic mismanagement and “socialism,” but with Orwellian precision the impact of Washington’s economic hostilities and subversive efforts remain absent from the anti-Bolivarian narrative as it would delegitimize the ideological rationale for its continued aggression.[1] Sanction-induced deprivation (herein referred to as SID) is intended to generate anti-government energy among the populations of targeted states to leverage the target to alter a behavior in compliance with the sanctioning bodies’ demands,[2] yet often the outcomes of economic sanctions, if not their very premise, are in violation of human rights protections and international law.[3] Thoroughly defining economic sanctions within the context of human rights and international law, and examining Washington’s unilateral sanctions imposed on Venezuela in within this framework and mindful of ongoing economic challenges, demonstrates that Washington has crossed the threshold of international law and human rights protections as outlined by the United Nations (UN), the Organization of American States (OAS) and more, challenging Washington’s humanitarian high-road on which its ideological justifications for continued aggressions are sustained. 

 

Economic sanctions defined in the context of human rights and international law 

 

The origins of sanctions are rooted in premodern siege tactics whereby aggressors surrounded cities to deprive inhabitants to the point of submission, if not starvation,[4] and in nineteenth century blockades “mounted by powerful European states against smaller nations in Europe and emerging nations in Latin America.”[5] Legitimized under article 16 of the League of Nations’ Covenant and expanded under the UN’s original Charter in Articles 2(4), 39, 41, 42, 43, 46, and the 1950 Uniting for Peace Resolution, the primary function of sanctions remained a strategic military endeavor through the Second World War, but sanctioning extended to the economic and diplomatic landscape as a mechanism for geopolitical behavior modification in the postwar era. The UN Commission on Human Rights identifies sanctions as being both financial and non-financial, the former including trade restrictions and monetary constraints, and the latter including diplomatic measures (visa revocation), travel prohibitions, cultural restrictions (abstaining from events), and military measures (embargoes and the withdrawal of training or assistance).[6] Dursun Peksen highlights the core of modern sanctions as the application of “economic and diplomatic pressure on target countries to induce the target political leadership to comply with sender countries’ demands,”[7] while Jill Jermono of the Department of Treasury provides a comprehensive explanation of sanctions: 

 

The use of sanctions in coercive strategies to effect behavioral change involves the sender demanding that the target cease or reverse an action, backing the demand by a credible threat. Sanctions aim to change a target’s decision calculus about resisting pressure by increasing the cost and difficulty of the target’s economic activity or financial transactions.[8]

 

Susan Hannah Allen further expands the operational dynamics of sanctions herein: 

 

Targeted states must sufficiently value the benefits gained by compliance. When sanctions succeed, the benefits of compliance exceed the value of the offending behavior that triggered the sanctions initially…

 

...When the population feels the pinch of sanctions, ...deprivation logic of sanctions anticipates a political response. As the economic pressure rises, coercive influence increases... [T]he deprivation perspective suggests that there will be a significant increase in antigovernment activity under sanctions as the public experiences economic hardship.[9]

 

Within the institutional and scholarly framework provided, the mechanism for change in targeted states are populations engaging in antigovernment activity, and the motivational element to induce antigovernment activity is SID.[10]

 

The undesirable behaviors warranting the use of sanctions include peacekeeping and humanitarian initiatives “ranging from preventing bloodshed between ethnic groups to punishing countries harboring terrorists, restoring democratic regimes, or ending the use of repression by the government,”[11] and critical observers may consider the coercive nature in which these labels have been manipulated in rationalizing intervention. If applied with integrity, however, few legal barriers existed to prevent states from issuing sanctions, as Article 2(4) of the UN Charter “imposes no constraint on individual states undertaking coercive measures short of war.”[12] Lance Davis and Stanley Engerman outline the expanding motivations for the application of sanctions herein:

 

[I]n recent decades, economic sanctions have been pursued for a much broader range of international goals: forestalling war; hastening the achievement of freedom and democracy; cleaning up the environment; strengthening human rights or labor rights; nuclear nonproliferation; the freeing of captured citizens; and the reversal of captures of land. Sanctions have become a standard and routine policy tool of nations and international organizations for addressing any actions of a targeted nation that targeting nation or group of nations disagreed with.[13][emphasis added]

 

In line with these closing remarks, within the increasing application of sanctions emerged a key characteristic that exposes an imperialistic dynamic: smaller states tended to be targeted by larger Western states. This asymmetrical pattern is not universal as smaller states may and have unilaterally sanctioned states of similar proportion, but states with smaller or less dynamic economies are limited in their capacity to sanction states with larger economies by use of sanctions.[14] In consideration of sanctions’ origins in the premodern siege, the surrounding force cannot starve a city if it has less food than lies within the city walls.  Davis and Engerman explore this dynamic in detail:

 

In the 115 cases of economic sanctions deployed since 1914... the GNP of the sender (or principal initiator) of sanctions was nearly always over ten times that of the target and in the majority of cases more than 50 times greater. Where "modest policy changes" were at stake, the sender's economy was on average more than 200 times larger than the target's economy, and where "destabilization" of the government was the goal, the average ratio exceeded 400. Only when relatively important goals were at stake were countries willing to pick on someone closer to themselves in size...[15]

 

In a postwar context provided, the relative effectiveness of sanctions is asymmetrical and lends to Western hegemony, as is demonstrated by their applications over time.

 

The UN modestly applied sanctions on five occasions prior to 1990, but in the latter half of the twentieth century Washington initiated the expansion of sanctions unilaterally, through a “significant role” in UN applications, or by way of coalitions. Davis and Engerman observe that over 145 sanctions were issued between 1950 and 2000, that between 1960 and 1990 “the majority of sanctions were imposed unilaterally, most frequently by the United States,” and that “trade sanctions were imposed in 117 cases between 1970 and 1998, with the United States primarily responsible or ‘part of the sanctions coalition’ in over two-thirds of them.”[16] Washington’s economic hegemony (and to a lesser extent the larger European Union states) incentivized its use of sanctions, and their application transformed into a preferred geopolitical mechanism for exerting Western authority.[17] As the UN began issuing sanctions more frequently in concert with the US, the final years of the twentieth century became known as “the sanctions decade.”[18]

 

The effectiveness of sanctions has been contested, though scholars have observed both their ineffectiveness in promoting change and their tendency to create adverse humanitarian outcomes. Though a case can be made that the use of sanctions provides a non-violent alternative to military intervention,[19] this argument only has merit if the motivations and desired outcomes are honorable and beneficial for targeted states, and it disregards the prospect that the outcomes of SID may result in human suffering through passive means nonetheless comparable to the use of physical violence. Robert A. Pape contends that “there is little empirical evidence that sanctions can achieve ambitious foreign policy goals;” convincingly challenging Hufbauer, Schott, and Elliott’s influential “Economic Sanctions Reconsidered” (1985) and scaling back their assertions of the successful implementation of sanctions in the twentieth century from forty to five, Pape contends that economic sanctions come with “significant human costs,” and that hostile rhetoric has the capacity to induce military intervention if and when sanctions are unsuccessful, suggestinging that “overreliance on sanctions may contribute to [unnecessary wars].”[20] Peksen argues that “economic sanctions ...may cause disproportionate stress on ordinary citizens,” and that “[e]xtensive sanctions, including comprehensive trade and financial restrictions, appear to be ...detrimental to human rights,” concluding “economic coercion remains a counterproductive policy tool, even when sanctions are specifically imposed with the goal of improving human rights conditions.”[21] Use of SID to promote change has limited appropriate applicational space, as compliance with the requests of sanctioning bodies is more likely when the targeted state is democratic and its population has the capacity to effectively generate change through productive antigovernment activity, but less likely in repressive autocratic states in which the population is incapable of altering policy, thus reducing the scope of the successful application of sanctions to target states in which state-imposed humanitarian crisis is not present or where unwarranted international aggression is less likely.[22] This would suggest a reduction in much of the legitimate criteria under which sanctions are warranted, prompting the issuing body to employ manipulative and at times hyperbolic justification to issue sanctions, or otherwise do so in defiance of emerging legislation outlined below. While Davis and Engerman argue that economic sanctions are most likelyto succeed, they nonetheless conclude that “sanctions have not proven very effective as a tool to secure foreign policy goals.”[23]

 

Legal protections began to emerge in the latter third of the twentieth century in response to the growing use of sanctions, and at present utilizing SID as a coercive mechanism for change violates multiple pieces of international legislation.[24] The UN’s long ignored 1970 Declaration on the Principles of International Law’s “Duty Not to Intervene in Matters Within the Domestic Jurisdiction of Any State” dictates: 

 

No State may use or encourage the use of economic[,] political or any other type of measures to coerce another State in order to obtain from it the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights and to secure from it advantages of any kind.[25]

 

Within the framework of this legislation, use of sanctions requires the target be in violation of human rights, and as such the applications of “democracy promotion” and “dictatorship” are often manipulated to initiate sanctions; this pattern is ever present with Washington’s sanctions on Venezuela, which have been initiated by Executive Order (EO) since 2015 through invocation of the 1976 National Emergency Act (HR3884),[26] which sets no criteria for determining a national emergency and as such remains susceptible to manipulation and hyperbole.[27] Despite increased UN sanctioning activities in the 1990s, several measures to preserve human rights and restrict coercive practices were adopted through Resolutions in the General Assembly, Human Rights Council (HRC), and Commission on Human Rights, while the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 called upon states to abide by international law regarding coercive practices. The Resolutions went ignored in the coming decades, notably by the US, and in September 2014 the HRC’s “Resolution 27/21 Human rights and unilateral coercive measures” reaffirmed the illegalities of coercive practices, highlighted the human toll of coercive practices on human rights and condemned their continued use in defiance of past Resolutions, and created the Office of the Special Rapporteur to examine reports of human rights violations. This was done without the supporting votes of the US and major Western powers.[28] Most recently, “Draft Resolution 40: The negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights” was adopted in response to Washington-imposed sanctions against Venezuela, but in maintaining consistency with its commitment to international cooperation, the US was not in attendance for the vote.[29]

 

Further legislation outside the scope of the UN challenges the use of coercive economic practices. Within Chapter IV of the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Charter, Article 19 stipulates:

 

No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.[30]

 

The OAS Charter’s Chapter IV, Article 20 confronts sanctions more directly, insisting that “[n]o State may use or encourage the use of coercive measures of an economic or political character in order to force the sovereign will of another State and obtain from it advantages of any kind.”[31]

 

In consideration of SID, international regulations prohibiting collective punishment can be found in Article 50 of both the 1899 and 1907 Hague Regulations, which specifically address civilians, Article 26 (III) of the 1949 Geneva Convention which prohibits “[c]ollective disciplinary measures affecting food,” Articles 87 (III) and 33 (IV) of the 1949 Geneva Convention which prohibit collective punishment, along with Article 75(2)(d) of the 1977 Geneva Convention Additional Protocol I, Article 4(2)(b) of the 1977 Additional Protocol II, and Article 20(f)(ii) of the International Law Commission’s 1996 Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind.[32] While several of the aforementioned protections are intended for conflict scenarios, the applicability of these protections are relevant if and when the stated objective in imposing sanctions is regime change, when desired outcomes are aided by subversion, when the threat of military intervention is utilized by the sanctioning body, and when sanctions escalate to armed conflict initiated by the sanctioning body. In the case of Venezuela, the former three conditions are applicable at this time, while the latter is, according to US President Donald Trump,  “on the table.”[33] Despite the aforementioned protections, international law has proved an ineffective means of deterring sanctions,[34] perhaps due to the asymmetrical nature in which sanctions favor hegemony, leaving no mechanism for accountability of comparable stature.

 

Washington-imposed sanctions on Venezuela

 

While many credit the Obama administration for introducing sanctions on Venezuela with the creation of the 2014 Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, the origins of US-imposed sanctions are traced to the W. Bush administration’s volatile relationship with the Bolivarian Republic.[35] As Hugo Chavez vocally denounced US imperialism, “[t]he Bush administration made no attempt to disguise its distaste for ...his personality, and his policies.”[36] The failed 2002 coup was credibly linked to Washington, and millions of US dollars were directed to NGOs like the National Endowment for Democracy and the Office of Transition Initiatives to unite opposition groups and fund subversive initiatives under the policy of “democratic intervention.”[37] Cognizant of these ongoing efforts, in 2005 Chavez claimed that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents engaged in espionage and expelled them; in response, Washington asserted with no substantive supporting evidence and in contrast to DEA reporting that Venezuela had aided Colombian cocaine trafficking and “failed demonstrably ...to adhere to their obligations under the international narcotics agreements.” Under the 2000 Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, 22 individuals and 27 companies were branded “Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers” and sanctioned by the Treasury Department,[38] while democratic intervention practices intensified.[39] Peter H. Smith contends that “[o]ver the years, U.S. antidrug campaigns ...became linked to larger geopolitical goals,” and that in time “the drug control policy had become part and parcel of the antiterrorist campaign;”[40] in this context the W. Bush administration’s hostile rhetoric towards Venezulea expanded to include accusations of terrorism, under which further sanctions could be rationalized.[41] In 2006 and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State asserted that Venezuela fails to cooperate with anti-terrorism efforts in accordance with the Section 40A of the 1976 Arms Export Control Act; Washington discontinued arms sales to Venezulea in 2006 and disrupted military sales agreements between the Bolivarian government and Spain, Norway, and Brazil, and in 2008 the Treasury Department sanctioned two Venezuelan nationals and two travel agencies for reporedly supporing Hezbollah under the auspices of EO 13224 (2001).[42] That Venezuela has been forced to purchase arms from other sources, especially Russia, has fueled Washington’s rhetoric in categorizing the Bolivarian government as rogue.[43] Although sanctions issued during the W. Bush administration did not meet the humanitarian or coercive elements prohibited by international law, the manipulation of criteria under which sanctions were issued set dangerous precedent for future administrations, while the use of subversion remains illegal under the UN Charter. 

 

The Obama administration oversaw the Venezuelan presidency transition to Nicolas Maduro. Tempering hostilities toward Venezuela in the public sphere at the onset, the Obama administration later applied sanctions using “exaggerated rhetoric” under the pretext that Venezuela presented an “extraordinary threat to national security” in 2015.[44] Targeted sanctions were issued in response to protests in 2014 led by opposition groups long fueled by US dollars, and as protests had become violent the conduct of both government and opposition were mutually called into question: opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and other actors were arrested under accusations of inciting violence, while Washington condemned the actions of the Bolivarian government as repressive and undemocratic.[45] The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 was enacted in December of that year to authorize the use of sanctions outlined herein:

 

Among its provisions, the law requires the President to impose sanctions (asset blocking and visa restrictions) against those whom the President determines are responsible for significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses associated with protests in February 2014 or... against anyone who has directed or ordered the arrest or prosecution of a person primarily because of the person’s legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly.[46][emphasis added]

 

The Act was extended by Congress in 2016 and remains quite active at this time, and under its provisions President Obama issued EO 13692 which sanctioned targeted individuals that included the Finance Minister, thus obstructing or making foreign transactions difficult.[47] Similar to the previous administration, sanctions imposed by the Obama administration utilized questionable rationale, most notably in the absence of accountability for the opposition. In both cases the US-initiated sanctions did not generate SID, but the 2015 sanctions declared under a hyperbolic state of “national emergency” generated insecurity within the financial community,[48] and prompted the closure of two foreign-owned manufacturing facilities in Venezuela.[49]

 

The Trump administration initiated an unprecedented volume of sanctions on Venezuela with menacing rhetoric, manipulated logic, and unreasonable objectives. Washington expanded targeted sanctions within the framework of alleged narcotrafficking and terror activities in 2017 and 2018, placed restrictions on transactions with Venezuelan “Petro” currency on the grounds that it was created to evade sanctions under EO 13827 in March 2018, and prohibited the purchase of Venezuelan debt with stretched assertions of eliminating corruption under EO 13835 in May 2018.[50] Broader sanctions initiated through EO 13808 in August of 2017 were rationalized as “necessary in order to encourage the government of Venezuela to respect human rights,” yet were accompanied by threats of intervention from both Trump and within his circle;[51] these sanctions prohibited the Venezuelan government from borrowing within US markets and ostensibly imposed a “financial embargo” on an already recessed Venzeuelan economy challenged by balance-of-payment issues and in dire need of debt restructuring, while prohibiting PDVSA’s affiliate Citgo from returning its earnings to Venezuela.[52] In September of that year, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network put forth an “Advisory to Financial Institutions on Widespread Political Corruption in Venezuela,” which generated further borrowing limitations and account closures.[53] Though EO 13850 of November 2018 initially introduced targeted sanctions on the high-ground of challenging corruption with regard to the gold sector, Washington extended 13850 to encompass PDVSA’s assets while declaring support for Juan Guiado’s self-declaration as interim-president of Venezuela in January 2019. This was  followed by further extensions of 13850 in March and April that included multiple banking institutions and PDVSA’s transport capacity. Specifically, since 2017 the Trump administration has sanctioned 63 persons, one aircraft, and six institutions under EO 13692, while five persons and 33 institutions were sanctioned under the Kingpin Act, and seven persons, 30 institutions, one aircraft and 44 ships were sanctioned under EO 13850. On the whole, over 150 persons have been sanctioned since 2017,[54] and as of May 2019, the Treasury Department maintained sanctions on 112 individuals,[55] revoking the visas of 718 persons since recognizing Guaido, 107 of which were of diplomatic significance. The leverage of Washington’s hegemony is evidenced in the recognition of Juan Guaido as echoed by the OAS, the Inter-American Development Bank, eleven signatories of the Lima Group, and fifty-four countries, along with the European Parliament of the European Union’s issuance of a nonbinding resolution in March 2019 that called for additional sanctions.[56] Reports in May 2019 indicate Washington seeks to sanction CLAP, a community food distribution program designed to relieve inflation-related hunger, under corruption allegations.[57] While the Trump administration's rhetoric is reflective of the W. Bush administration’s tone, and while the sanctions issued by the Trump administration are consistent with both the W. Bush and Obama administrations’ hyperbolic claims of national security threats posed by Venezuela, the elevated objective of regime change has not been overtly present in collaboration with the use of sanctions, and the impact of sanctions have not been so broad as to induce poverty in prior administrations.

 

Ongoing economic hardships in Venezuela were exacerbated by sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Prior to the 2017 sanctions, the Venezuelan economy was in a state of depression with inflation in excess of 750 percent, and the 2019 sanctions have contributed to an “astounding” 37.4 percent drop in GDP as of March 2019.[58] In historical perspective, the most devastating economic sanctions to date are observed in Iraq with a decline of about 48 percent GNP, “with a particularly heavy burden on the incomes and mortality of the poorer segment of the population,” while the only other cases in which sanctions impacted more than 10% of GNP include UN sanctions on Rhodesia between 1966 and 1979, and Nigerian sanctions on Biafra from 1979.[59] Washington boasts that $3.2 billion in Venezuelan assets have been frozen abroad,[60] including $1.2 billion in gold seized by the Bank of England and a Colombia-based agrochemical operation valued at over $250 million, but the total loss of assets is much higher when factoring Citgo, valued at over $5 billion, was granted to professed interim-government of Juan Guaido.[61] Gold transactions have declined and in some instances been terminated in response to international pressure, while oil production has declined to half of its 2018 monthly output, forcing Caracas to sell at discounted rates.[62] Oil production has further declined 36.4 percent between January and April 2019, and predicted to drop a “cataclysmic and unprecedented 67.2 percent” by year’s end if sanctions persist.[63] Venezuela has been sanctioned to a state of capital paralysis at present, and hyperinflation and reduced import capacity have created what many deem a humanitarian crisis. Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs outline these dynamics for the Center for Economic Policy Research:

 

[N]early all of the foreign exchange that is needed to import medicine, food, medical equipment, spare parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems,or transportation, is received by the Venezuelan economy through the government’s revenue from the export of oil. Thus, any sanctions that reduce export earnings, and therefore government revenue, thereby reduce the imports of these essential and, in many cases, life-saving goods.[64]

 

Imports declined by 75 percent between 2013 and 2018, with observed shortages in food products and medicine, the latter experiencing 85 percent shortages of “essential” drugs like insulin and cardiovascular medications in 2018. General mortality rose 31% and nutritional deficits were noted in 22 percent of children between 2017 and 2018. Infrastructure has suffered, most notably with inconsistent electrical service as diesel is not available to import for generator backup, and in water purity and sanitation-based subfields.[65] Venezuela has experienced an exodus of persons seeking opportunities abroad. In breaking with prior administrations, the sanctions issued by the Trump administration have had broad social, economic, and humanitarian implications for the citizens of Venezuela.

 

Establishing SID in the context of international law

 

While a case can (and should) be made that sanctions are issued in concert with “democratic intervention” (subversion) and a collaborative Washington-media narrative to hyperbolize Venezuela’s economic state as a means to make intervention palatable to domestic and international observers, that is not the scope of this piece. Whether or not Washington-imposed sanctions cross the threshold of international law, however, can be established by determining if the hardships Venezuela continues to experience meet the criteria for SID, and herein contested debates are observed by both scholars and state actors as to the causes of Venezuela’s economic crisis. The initial application of sanctions and hostile rhetoric from Washington coincided with declining global oil prices and early signs of stagnation from the Venezulean petroeconomy during the Chavez administration, and Washington’s aggressions conveniently intensified in step with the economic decline of the Maduro government, providing Washington, Caracas, and the Venezuelan opposition with misleading narratives. While Washington cites corruption, authoritarianism, economic mismanagement, and “socialism” for Venezuela’s economic woes,[66] the Venezuelan opposition, mindful of the hand from which it is fed, echoes this narrative, contending that the Bolivarian government’s economic spiral preceded sanctions. The rhetorical alibi from Miraflores places blame primarily on US hostilities,[67] enhanced by Washington’s hostile rhetoric which feeds into the Bolivarian anti-imperial narrative. Neither camp is wholly correct, yet elements of truth exist within them. Assertions that Venezuela was already in crisis prior to the 2017 sanctions attempt to absolve Washington of culpability and place blame wholly on the Bolivarian government, but absent from this argument is the economic momentum of prior US hostilities, antigovernment activity sponsored by Washington through democratic intervention, and a private sector partial to regime change all prior to 2017.[68] In contrast, assertions that Venezuela’s economic crisis rests wholly on external forces avoids the Maduro government’s failure to address foreign-exchange challenges and restructure its debt prior to the issuance of sanctions, but absent here is that these options are no longer available nor have they been since 2017, calling the morality and coercive nature of sanctions into question.[69] Neo-extractivists will challenge the Bolivarian government for remaining dependent upon basic-commodity exports,[70] but George Ciccariello-Maher describes Venezuela’s lack of economic dynamism as a product of “centuries of perversion of development,”[71] and world-systems and dependency theorists alike may validate Bolivarian rhetoric in contending that commodity export vulnerabilities are remnants of neocolonialism that previous administrations opted not to address. The Chavez administration’s initiatives to increase dynamism were funded with oil revenues and fell short of fruition due to declining oil prices and domestic obstruction from the Washington-backed opposition.[72] Chasing the multidimensional origins of Venezuela’s economic crisis down the rabbit hole of history to determine if and the precise moment when Washington’s imposed sanctions generated SID may prove unnecessary, for if deprivation exists, regardless of the cause, and sanctions persist, they are thereby illegal. As the 2019 sanctions target the heart of the Venezuelan economy alongside frequent threats of intervention and the stated objective of regime change, Washington’s boastfully purports to knowledge of deprivation and seeks to enhance it, which is thereby a declaration of guilt. In light of this, Washington at present is in violation of international law, and if CLAP is targeted, another violation is irrefutable. 

 

Richard Balzano is a graduate student at Western New Mexico University.

 

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United Nations General Assembly - Human Rights Council. “Human Rights Council Adopts 12 Resolutions.” March 21, 2019. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=24389&LangID=E. Accessed June 14, 2019.

United Nations Commission on Human Rights (Marc Bossuyt). “The Adverse Consequences of Economic Sanctions On the Enjoyment of Human Rights.” June 21, 2000. https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Events/WCM/MarcBossuyt_WorkshopUnilateralCoerciveSeminar.pdfhttps://digitallibrary.un.org/record/419880. Accessed June 13, 2019.

United States Congress. “H.R. 3884 - National Emergencies Act.” September 14, 1976. https://www.congress.gov/bill/94th-congress/house-bill/3884. Accessed June 15, 2019.

United States Department of State. “Fact Sheet: U.S. Actions on Venezuela.” April 24, 2019. https://mronline.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/US-Department-of-State-Venezuela-actions.pdfhttps://www.scribd.com/document/408821784/US-Department-of-State-Deleted-Venezuela-Hit-List#download&from_embed. Accessed June 13, 2019. 

Weisbrot, Mark and Jeffrey Sachs. “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela.” Center for Economic Policy Research. April 2019. http://cepr.net/images/stories/reports/venezuela-sanctions-2019-04.pdf. Accessed June 13, 2019. 

Weisbrot, Mark. “Trump’s Other ‘National Emergency’: Sanctions That Kill Venezuelans.” The Nation. February 28, 2019. https://www.thenation.com/article/venezuela-sanctions-emergency/. Accessed June 13, 2019. 

 

[1]Eva Golinger, Bush vs. Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela(New York: Monthly Review Press, 2008),  21-23, 47, 119-121; Alan MacLeod,Bad News from Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting(New York: Routledge, 2018), 6; Alexander Main, “United States’ Hand in Undermining Democracy in Venezuela,” North American Congress on Latin America, published May 17, 2018, https://nacla.org/news/2018/05/18/united-states’-hand-undermining-democracy-venezuela, accessed June 13, 2019.

[2]Susan Hannah Allen, “The Domestic Political Costs of Economic Sanctions,” The Journal of Conflict Resolution52, no. 6 (December 2008): 916, https://www.jstor.org/stable/27638645, accessed June 13, 2019. 

[3]Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela,” Center for Economic Policy Research, 18, April 2019,  http://cepr.net/images/stories/reports/venezuela-sanctions-2019-04.pdf, accessed June 13, 2019. 

[4]Allen, “The Domestic Political Costs of Economic Sanctions,” 917.

[5]Lance Davis and Stanley Engerman, “History Lessons: Sanctions: Neither War nor Peace,” The Journal of Economic Perspectives17, no. 2 (Spring, 2003): 188, https://www.jstor.org/stable/3216864, accessed June 13, 2019. 

[6]United Nations Commission on Human Rights (Marc Bossuyt), “The Adverse Consequences of Economic Sanctions On the Enjoyment of Human Rights,” June 21, 2000, https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Events/WCM/MarcBossuyt_WorkshopUnilateralCoerciveSeminar.pdfhttps://digitallibrary.un.org/record/419880, accessed June 13, 2019. 

[7]Dursun Peksen, “Better or Worse? The Effect of Economic Sanctions on Human Rights,” Journal of Peace Research46, no. 1 (January 2009): 59,  https://www.jstor.org/stable/27640799, accessed June 13, 2019. 

[8]Jill Jermano, “Economic and Financial Sanctions in U.S. National Security Strategy,” PRISM7, no. 4 (2018): 65, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/26542707, accessed June 13, 2019.

[9]Allen, “The Domestic Political Costs of Economic Sanctions,” 919.

[10]Allen, “The Domestic Political Costs of Economic Sanctions,” 917-919; Jermano, “Economic and Financial Sanctions in U.S. National Security Strategy,” 65; Peksen, “Better or Worse? The Effect of Economic Sanctions on Human Rights,” 59-62.

[11]Peksen, “Better or Worse? The Effect of Economic Sanctions on Human Rights,” 59. 

[12]Davis and Engerman, “History Lessons: Sanctions: Neither War nor Peace,” 189, 190.

[13]Ibid., 190.

[14]Davis and Engerman, “History Lessons: Sanctions: Neither War nor Peace,” 188, 190-191; Emilie Hafner-Burton and Alexander H. Montgomery, “The Hegemon’s Purse: No Economic Peace Between Democracies,” Journal of Peace Research45, no. 1 (Jan., 2008): 111-112, https://www.jstor.org/stable/27640627, accessed June 13, 2019. 

[15]Davis and Engerman, “History Lessons: Sanctions: Neither War nor Peace,” 188, 190-191.

[16]Ibid., 188-190. 

[17]Hafner-Burton and A Montgomery, “The Hegemon’s Purse: No Economic Peace Between Democracies,” 112.

[18]Peksen, “Better or Worse? The Effect of Economic Sanctions on Human Rights,” 59. 

[19]Davis and Engerman, “History Lessons: Sanctions: Neither War nor Peace,” 196; Hafner-Burton and Montgomery, “The Hegemon’s Purse: No Economic Peace Between Democracies,” 118; Jermano, “Economic and Financial Sanctions in U.S. National Security Strategy;” Robert A. Pape, “Why Economic Sanctions Still Do Not Work,” International Security23, no. 1 (Summer, 1998): 76, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2539263, accessed June 13, 2019. 

[20]Pape, “Why Economic Sanctions Still Do Not Work,” 67-77. 

[21]Peksen, “Better or Worse? The Effect of Economic Sanctions on Human Rights,” 59-60. 

[22]Allen, “The Domestic Political Costs of Economic Sanctions,” 917; Peksen, “Better or Worse? The Effect of Economic Sanctions on Human Rights,” 61-63; United Nations Commission on Human Rights (Marc Bossuyt), “The Adverse Consequences of Economic Sanctions On the Enjoyment of Human Rights.” 

[23]Davis and Engerman, “History Lessons: Sanctions: Neither War nor Peace,” 187-188, 194.

[24]Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela,” Center for Economic Policy Research, April 2019, http://cepr.net/images/stories/reports/venezuela-sanctions-2019-04.pdf, accessed June 13, 2019. 

[25]United Nations General Assembly, “2625 (XXV). Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations,” October 24, 1970, http://www.un-documents.net/a25r2625.htm, accessed June 13, 2019. This particular section of the Declaration also states that “no State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another State, or interfere in civil strife in another State.” In this context, much of Washington’s Latin American and Cold War foreign policy initiatives since the Declaration’s enactment are in conflict with this criteria, including the subversive of “democratic intervention” through NGO’s like the Office of Transition Initiatives and the National Endowment for Democracy.

[26]Weisbrot and Sachs, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela,” 19.

[27]United States Congress, “H.R. 3884 - National Emergencies Act,” September 14, 1976, https://www.congress.gov/bill/94th-congress/house-bill/3884, accessed June 15, 2019.

[28]United Nations General Assembly - Human Rights Council, “Resolution 27/21: Human rights and unilateral coercive measures,” October 3, 2014, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G14/179/07/PDF/G1417907.pdf?OpenElement, accessed June 14, 2019. Despite decades of claims by the US that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a human rights abusing dictatorship, Venezuela voted in favor of the Resolution.

[29]United Nations General Assembly - Human Rights Council, “Draft Resolution- Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of): The negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights,” March 14, 2019,https://undocs.org/A/HRC/40/L.5, accessed June 13, 2019; United Nations General Assembly - Human Rights Council,  “Human Rights Council Adopts 12 Resolutions,” March 21, 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=24389&LangID=E, accessed June 14, 2019. 

[30]In Weisbrot and Sachs, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela,” 5, 17-18. 

[31]See previous note.

[32]International Committee of the Red Cross, “Practice Relating to Rule 103. Collective Punishments,” https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v2_rul_rule103, accessed June 14, 2019.

[33]Quoted in Gregory Weeks, “The U.S. is thinking of invading Venezuela. That’s unlikely to lead to democracy,” Washington Post, March 25, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/03/25/us-is-thinking-invading-venezuela-thats-unlikely-lead-democracy/?utm_term=.b0ad7a4b1730, accessed June 17, 2019.

[34]Michael Shifter, “The Caracas Context: Venezuela Sanctions Prompt Cold War Memories,” Foreign Affairs, April 1, 2015, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2015-04-01/caracas-context, accessed June 13, 2019. 

[35]Steve Ellner, “Explanations for the Current Crisis in Venezuela: A Clash of Paradigms and Narratives,” Global Labor Journal10, no. 2 (May 2019): 160, https://mulpress.mcmaster.ca/globallabour/issue/view/373, accessed June 13, 2019; Golinger, Bush vs. Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela, 12-15, 24-31.

[36]Peter H. Smith, Talons of the Eagle: Latin America, the United States, and the World(New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 319. 

[37]Golinger, Bush vs. Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela, 18-20, 22-23, 30, 43-44, 69-78. 

[38]Congressional Research Service (Mark P. Sullivan), “Overview of U.S. Sanctions;” Library of Congress,  updated May 8, 2009, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IF10715.pdf, accessed June 13, 2019; Golinger, Bush vs. Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela, 46-47.

[39]Congressional Research Service (Mark P. Sullivan), “Overview of U.S. Sanctions;” Golinger, Bush vs. Chavez, 62, 66-67; Smith, Talons of the Eagle, 318-320.

[40]Smith, Talons of the Eagle, 320. 

[41]Golinger, Bush vs. Chavez, 23, 47-48, 66-67.

[42]Congressional Research Service (Mark P. Sullivan), “Overview of U.S. Sanctions;”  Golinger, Bush vs. Chavez, 66-67.

[43]Golinger, Bush vs. Chavez, 58-67, 140.

[44]Ellner, “Explanations for the Current Crisis in Venezuela: A Clash of Paradigms and Narratives,” 160; Shifter, “The Caracas Context: Venezuela Sanctions Prompt Cold War Memories.” 

[45]Lauren Carasik, “Obama Continues Bush’s Policies in Venezuela,” Al Jazeera (English), published April 8, 2014, accessed June 14, 2019, http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/4/nicolas-maduro-onobamaandbushspoliciesinvenezuela.html; Congressional Research Service (Mark P. Sullivan), “Overview of U.S. Sanctions;” Steve Holland, Andrew Cawthorne, and Eyanir Chinea, “Obama signs U.S. sanctions law on Venezuela officials,” Reuters, December 18, 2014, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-venezuela-sanctions/obama-signs-u-s-sanctions-law-on-venezuela-officials-idUSKBN0JW2JF20141218, accessed June 17, 2019; Shifter, “The Caracas Context: Venezuela Sanctions Prompt Cold War Memories.” The arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez for inciting protest violence has been condemned by Washington and the Western media alike as an act of repression, which begs the question, does the Venezuelan government not have the right to enforce its own laws when violated by individuals favored by and acting in concert with Washington? History has proven the question is rhetorical--according to Washington, they do not. 

[46]Congressional Research Service (Mark P. Sullivan), “Overview of U.S. Sanctions.” 

[47]Congressional Research Service (Mark P. Sullivan), “Overview of U.S. Sanctions;” Mark Weisbrot, “Trump’s Other ‘National Emergency’: Sanctions That Kill Venezuelans,” The Nation, February 28, 2019, https://www.thenation.com/article/venezuela-sanctions-emergency/, accessed June 13, 2019. 

[48]Weisbrot,  “Trump’s Other ‘National Emergency’: Sanctions That Kill Venezuelans.” 

[49]Ellner, “Explanations for the Current Crisis in Venezuela: A Clash of Paradigms and Narratives,” 160.

[50]Congressional Research Service (Mark P. Sullivan), “Overview of U.S. Sanctions.”

[51]Weisbrot and Sachs, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela,” 1, 3, 6-7.

[52]Weisbrot, “Trump’s Other ‘National Emergency’: Sanctions That Kill Venezuelans;” Weisbrot and Sachs, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela,” 1, 3, 6-7.

[53]Weisbrot and Sachs, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela,” 9.

[54]United States Department of State, “Fact Sheet: U.S. Actions on Venezuela,” April 24, 2019, since redacted by Washington, but available at: https://mronline.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/US-Department-of-State-Venezuela-actions.pdf, and https://www.scribd.com/document/408821784/US-Department-of-State-Deleted-Venezuela-Hit-List#download&from_embed, accessed June 13, 2019. 

[55]Congressional Research Service (Mark P. Sullivan), “Overview of U.S. Sanctions.” Interestingly, if not coercively, members of the military that had been targeted by personal sanctions saw them lifted when choosing to defect to the Guaido camp.

[56]United States Department of State, “Fact Sheet: U.S. Actions on Venezuela.”

[57]Matt Spetalnick, “U.S. readies sanctions, charges over Venezuela food program: sources,” Reuters, May 21, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-sanctions/u-s-readies-sanctions-charges-over-venezuela-food-program-sources-idUSKCN1SR2KY, accessed June 19, 2019.

[58]Weisbrot and Sachs, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela,” 1-2, 10, 19-21. 

[59]Davis and Engerman, “History Lessons: Sanctions: Neither War nor Peace,” 193-194. Whereas GDP “is the overall market value of the goods/services produced domestically by a country” accounting for economic output after inflation, GNP factors for the market value of goods/services produced by all citizens of the state, even those residing abroad. As such, GNP may appropriate favorably in bolstering a states GDP, and example may be observed in athletes from developing states competing in Europe or the US, or billionaires abroad. Seth Shobhit, “Understanding GDP vs. GNP: What’s the Difference?,” Investopedia, Published April 20, 2019, https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/030415/what-functional-difference-between-gdp-and-gnp.asp.

[60]United States Department of State, “Fact Sheet: U.S. Actions on Venezuela.” Indeed, Washington’s boastful “hit list” cited here has since been redacted, but is available through multiple channels.

[61]Weisbrot and Sachs, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela,” 12-13.

[62]United States Department of State, “Fact Sheet: U.S. Actions on Venezuela;” Weisbrot and Sachs, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela,” 12-13.

[63]Weisbrot and Sachs, “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela,” 3, 11-12.

[64]Ibid., 1, 9.

[65]Ibid., 14-16.

[66]Ellner, “Explanations for the Current Crisis in Venezuela: A Clash of Paradigms and Narratives,”159-160; Gabriel Hetland, “How Severe is Venezuela’s Crisis?,” The Nation, June 22, 2016, https://www.thenation.com/article/how-severe-is-venezuelas-crisis/, Accessed June 13, 2019; MacLeod, Bad News from Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting.

[67]Ellner, “Explanations for the Current Crisis in Venezuela: A Clash of Paradigms and Narratives,” 159-160; Shifter, “The Caracas Context: Venezuela Sanctions Prompt Cold War Memories.” 

[68]Ellner, “Explanations for the Current Crisis in Venezuela: A Clash of Paradigms and Narratives,” 160-163.

[69]Weisbrot, “Trump’s Other ‘National Emergency’: Sanctions That Kill Venezuelans.”

[70]Ellner, “Explanations for the Current Crisis in Venezuela: A Clash of Paradigms and Narratives,” 162.

[71]Gabriel Hetland  and George Ciccariello-Maher, “The State of the Left in Latin America: A Disillusioned Revolution in Venezuela,” North American Congress on Latin America, July 21, 2017, https://nacla.org/news/2017/10/04/state-left-latin-america-disillusioned-revolution-venezuela, accessed June 13, 2019. 

[72]Ellner, “Explanations for the Current Crisis in Venezuela: A Clash of Paradigms and Narratives,” 162-163; Vijay Prashad, “The Plot to Kill Venezuela” Common Dreams, May 13, 2019, https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/05/13/plot-kill-venezuela, accessed June 13, 2019. 

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