But a growing range of countries are beginning to oppose them, writes Tim Young (26/10/17)
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has piled the pressure on Venezuela by announcing more sanctions, despite growing opposition from a range of countries to such aggressive acts.
The latest sanctions join those directed personally at Venezuelan President Nicolas
Maduro and his vice-president, and wider sanctions announced in August, aimed at starving the country of financing by restricting Venezuela’s financial dealings with US institutions.
US sanctions are levied under an executive order that deems the situation in Venezuela to be “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” — despite there being no evidence of any threat.
The new restrictions involve adding a range of Venezuelan government officials to Trump’s “travel ban” list, approved in January 2017.
The Trump administration’s justification for the move is that Venezuela’s government is allegedly “uncooperative in verifying whether its citizens pose national security or public safety threats” and “fails to share public safety and terrorism-related information adequately.”
Criticising the latest step as “incompatible with international law,” the Venezuelan government has argued that the Trump administration is using the war on terrorism as a “false pretext” to further undermine the Bolivarian Republic.
Pressure is also being stepped up against Venezuela from other directions. In late September Luis Almagro, the head of the Organisation of American States (OAS), published his fourth report on Venezuela and urged the international community to pursue “increasingly severe” sanctions against the country.
Almagro has had no success in getting the OAS’s 36 member states to apply the democratic charter legitimising economic sanctions against Venezuela for alleged violation of democratic norms.
While some of the OAS member states favour such sanctions, the majority support a dialogue between the government and the opposition.
But the failure to approve an OAS resolution against Venezuela hasn’t stopped Canada, an OAS member, from recently imposing its own sanctions.
These are targeted against 40 Venezuelan officials and individuals, while also barring Canadians from having any financial dealings with them.
Trump has also stepped up efforts to encourage other governments to apply sanctions against Venezuela.
At a joint press conference on September 26 with Spanish President Mariano Rajoy, he urged European leaders to join the US and Canada in imposing sanctions.
However, while European Union members voted to consider the possibility of organisation-wide sanctions in mid-September, nothing official has been approved to date.
Trump also used his United Nations maiden speech to attack Venezuela, promising he was “prepared to take further action” against Venezuela on top of the “tough calibrated sanctions” already imposed.
Such action could include military intervention. US budget preparations for 2018 specifically mention “the situation in Venezuela” in which a political and economic collapse — precisely triggered by the impact of US sanctions and other destabilisation activity — would create a humanitarian crisis to justify intervention.
The US Secretary of Defence has been directed to provide a (potentially private) briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services covering “the Department of Defence’s roles and responsibilities and assets that would contribute to such plans.”
In response, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza in his UN address condemned US threats against his government — including recent economic sanctions — as a violation of international law and the UN Charter.
In a counter to the US’s attempts to isolate Venezuela, Arreaza also cited a new declaration by the Non-Aligned Movement’s 126 countries opposing unilateral sanctions and “coercive measures” and expressing “concern” over the continued imposition of sanctions to the detriment of populations the world over.
But the US is still considering ratcheting up the pressure on Venezuela with the imposition of an oil embargo. US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has warned that “it’s not off the table.”
Such an embargo would be on top of the current US financial sanctions that are already impacting on Citgo, the US oil refiner in which the Venezuelan government is the largest foreign stakeholder.
Fewer oil suppliers are now willing to provide open credit to Citgo, making it rely increasingly on prepayment or bank letters of credit.
A full-scale oil embargo, although also damaging US interests by making oil more expensive, would aim to push Venezuela towards default.
However, Venezuela’s Economy Vice-President Ramon Lobo, while acknowledging “a series of difficulties” caused by the financial sanctions, has affirmed that insolvency “is completely out of the question.”
Nevertheless, sanctions can hurt Venezuela. Their impact is to deny essential and legitimate sources of credit which are earmarked primarily for the importation of foodstuffs and medicine.
In other words, they will hit the majority of the country’s population.
Moreover, sanctions are likely both to exacerbate internal polarisation and undermine the potential that exists for dialogue.
The Venezuela Solidarity Campaign is therefore calling for their rejection, and for respect for Venezuela’s sovereignty and its people’s democratic decisions.
The way forward for Venezuela is through support for the call by President Maduro for dialogue as a way to address the challenges the nation faces.
Find out more about US aggression towards Venezuela and what we can do to stop it at the Latin America 2017 conference on Saturday December 2 at Congress House, with speakers including Chris Williamson MP, Kevin Courtney of the NEU, Ken Loach, Venezuelan Ambassador Rocio Maniero and Egle Sanchez of the Venezuelan TUC. Tickets are available at: latinamerica2017.org.uk
This article was orginally published by the Morning Star at: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-4644-Opposition-governors-meet-Maduro-for-new-era