Last night, United States President Donald Trump signed into effect the harshest sanctions against the Maduro regime yet, blocking all government assets in the U.S. and banning all U.S. entities with doing business with the Venezuelan government.
The sanctions, which came into effect via an executive order, do not affect transactions involving humanitarian aid or the private sector, although it is not yet clear what collateral damage they could have on these sectors.
In a written statement, President Donald Trump said of the sanctions:
I have determined that it is necessary to block the property of the Government of Venezuela in light of the continued usurpation of power by the illegitimate Nicolas Maduro regime, as well as the regime’s human rights abuses, arbitrary arrest and detention of Venezuelan citizens, curtailment of free press, and ongoing attempts to undermine Interim President Juan Guaido of Venezuela and the democratically-elected Venezuelan National Assembly.
Speaking at a regional summit focused on Venezuela being held in Lima, Peru, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said today that the sanctions also had the goal of warning entities that want to do business with the Venezuelan government. Bolton said:
We are sending a signal to third parties that want to do business with the Maduro regime: proceed with extreme caution.
Washington has placed similar sanctions on Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and Syria.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza reacted to news of the sanctions today by saying that they would most definitely have an impact on the country’s private sector, and that they were aimed “at the Venezuelan people in general”, not the Venezuelan government.
Guaido Calls Sanctions Fair
Speaking on the sanctions today, Juan Guaido painted the sanctions as a step in the right direction, saying:
[The sanctions] go against those who do business at the expense of the Venezuelan people, against those who enrich themselves through hunger and the [lack of] medicine.
On the underlying cause of the sanctions, Guaido said:
[They are] a consequence of a regime that steals food from Venezuelans, that mortgaged the country in cases that are now appearing in courtrooms around the world. There’s no food in stores today, and there’s no medicine because they [the regime] stole our money.
Guaido also acknowledged the concerns voiced by experts and commentators that the sanctions would have a negative impact on the lives of ordinary Venezuelans, not just those who make up the Maduro regime. Guaido said that he “understood” their concerns.
Experts, Commentators Cast Doubt on Purpose, Effectiveness of Sanctions
Experts and commentators weighed in throughout the day on the sanctions, calling into question both their purpose and potential effectiveness.
Christopher Sabatini, a senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, told The Guardian:
This is intended to bring this government to its knees and to bring in Guaidó. That’s it … But it will not work. It will actually make Maduro’s government what it always wanted to be: a martyr.
David Smilde, a political science professor at Tulane University who specializes on Venezuela, pointed out in a Twitter thread that the other regimes that have had similar sanctions placed on them–namely Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria–are still in power, and that the sanctions might in fact discourage a political settlement to the crisis.
Similarly, John Polga-Hecimovich, a political scientist a the U.S. Naval Academy, said that the sanctions are “unlikely to succeed” and that they were “much more likely” to negatively impact ordinary Venezuelans.
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