Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Sanctions Target People

Sanctions have a long history of worsening conditions for those that they purport to protect. While they are often billed as “targeted” or “smart” to minimise civilian damage, the brunt of the burden falls upon the most vulnerable

Trump's economic sanctions, have deprived the Venezuelan economy of “billions of dollars of foreign exchange needed to pay for essential and life-saving imports,” and in a paper  by economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, the sanctions have resulted in 40,000 deaths in 2017 and 2018 and more than 300,000 Venezuelans put at health risk due to a lack of access to medicine or treatment.

Obama paved the way for Trump when he began a policy of financial sanctions against Venezuelan officials, individuals and companies. In 2015, the Obama administration declared a “national emergencyaround Venezuela and labeled it a threat to “national security.” Using the same rhetoric Trump extended the sanctions. froze billions of dollars of Venezuelan government assets held in the U.S., from gold reserves to trade credits to oil funds from CITGO. The U.S. impeded Venezuela’s ability to restructure its debt and perform routine financial activities; prohibited Americans from doing business with Venezuela’s oil company, PDVSA; and pressured other countries to add to Venezuela’s economic isolation.

These sanctions are ostensibly aimed at government officials and assets, but the burden falls not on the government “but on the civilian population,” according to Weisbrot and Sachs. The sanctions have pushed inflation into hyperinflation and will cause Venezuela’s GDP to drop by 37.4 percent in 2019. Of course, the U.S. sanctions are not the original cause of Venezuela’s crisis. The collapse of oil prices in 2014, in a “rentier” state that relies almost exclusively on the nationalized oil industry for revenue, was merely the trigger. The collapse was worsened, by decades of clientelism, and corruptionon the part of various Venezuelan governments, from before Chávez to Maduro. None of this, however, should be used to whitewash U.S. intervention in Venezuela or the violence of the domestic opposition. Nor should it invalidate the success of Chávez reducing poverty, inequality, illiteracy, child mortality rates and malnutrition.

There has also been an escalation of Iranian sanctions, first in the lifting of waivers that had previously allowed major buyers of Iranian oil to continue importing the product, then in the new round of sanctions on May 8 that targeted the export of the industrial metals that make up 10% of Iran’s export economy. These actions joined existing Trump administration sanctions against Iranian “individuals, entities, aircraft and vessels.” History shows the consequences of these sanctions will not predominantly fall on the Iranian government, but on the Iranian people, who have suffered under U.S. sanctions since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Although there has not yet been a comprehensive study of the toll of the Trump administration sanctions on Iran, Iranians report that their everyday lives have become more difficult, in the form of drug shortages, increased air pollution, job loss and long food lines. This most recent round of sanctions will only tighten the noose.

Regardless of their devastating results, the use of sanctions against “unruly” countries is a frequent U.S. foreign policy tactic, often posed as the only alternative to an invasion. Trump’s talk of a potential “military option,” and the admission that the Venezuela sanctions are meant to “increase pain and suffering,” should rid us of any notion that the U.S. is imposing sanctions to “restore democracy” or “respect human rights” .

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