In early 2019, the White House threatened to invade Venezuela, take down the government and replace it with their choice of president and political party. Though no missiles have been fired and no bombs dropped on the country, our government is waging a war by other means, namely criminal economic sanctions, to achieve the same end. And they are just as lethal.
Economic sanctions kill people by weakening the economy in public and private sectors, causing job and income loss, and by reducing people’s access to food, medicine, medical supplies and health care.
Sanctions against Venezuela began with President Obama in 2015; however, the most crippling and deadly have been ordered since by Trump.
In August 2017, Trump prohibited Venezuela from borrowing in US financial markets, thus preventing its economy from recovering from a deep recession caused in part by the global drop in oil prices. The US financial embargo produced rapid decline in Venezuela’s oil production, extreme drop in export income and loss of access to credit. Consequently, revenue for critically needed imports for health, agriculture, industry and infrastructure plummeted. Two respected US economists, Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, have estimated that these sanctions caused 40,000 deaths in 2017-2018.
In January 2019 Trump tightened the noose with sanctions intended to prevent Venezuela’s government-owned oil industry from exporting oil to the U.S. and the rest of the world. The goal being to strangle the economy, given 90% of Venezuela’s exports is crude oil. These sanctions also froze billions of dollars of overseas Venezuelan assets, including gold reserves that the government could have sold to stabilize the economy.
In August Trump expanded existing sanctions, prohibiting any American economic transactions with Venezuela and threatening economic sanctions against any foreign company doing business with Venezuela.
The sadistic logic of these sanctions is clear: Put pressure on the target government by ripping apart the social and economic fabric of the country. Make people suffer increasingly until the country plunges into chaos, until as some point you can step in and force your choice of government on that country.
The leading Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodriguez (an opponent of the current President Maduro) estimates that Venezuela has suffered the largest economic collapse of a country “not at war” nor experiencing oil strikes, since the 1970s. Imports – of machine parts, trucks, diesel fuel and gasoline, infrastructure components for electricity and water systems, and food and medicines – have fallen 60% since last year. Agriculture has plummeted 50% with food rotting in fields from no gasoline for transport to markets. He predicts that the country will likely suffer “a famine causing hundreds of thousands of deaths within the next twelve months,” mainly from the drop in oil production and sales due to Trump’s 2017 and 2019 sanctions.