Venezuela Hit again by U.S. Sanctions: Next Cuba?

Anti-government demonstrator walks towards riot policemen during a protest in Caracas Photo: AP

On 26 July 2017, OFAC imposed a new wave of sanctions against Venezuela. The OFAC action blacklists 13 current or former senior officials of the Venezuelan Government.

The blacklisting focus on current and former officials of Venezuelan Government agencies which the U.S. Government holds responsible for the undermining of democracy, violence against opposition protesters and corruption. 

As a result, all assets of these individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with them.

The newest round of restrictive measures preceded the July 30, 2017 National Constituent Assembly (Asamblea Nacional Constituyente, or ANC) election orchestrated by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

According to the U.S. Government, the ANC is flawed as it endangers the rule of law and democratic traditions in Venezuela. The U.S. accuses that the ANC will be a surrogate for supporters of President Maduro’s government to forward their narrow self interests. It aims to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution and may choose to dissolve Venezuelan state institutions. 

To add insult to injury, on 31 July 2017, OFAC has also blacklisted  President Nicolas Maduro as a SDN, whereby all assets of Nicolas Maduro subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with him.  

Pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13692, signed by former President Obama, sanctions may be imposed against officials of the Government of Venezuela and others who undermine the rule of law and democracy. The ANC is the latest evidence of the ever deepening political crisis in Venezuela. 

Individuals Sanctioned

The big question is whether U.S. unilateral sanctions will be effective. It is undisputed that the Maduro Government has contributed to the ongoing crisis and suffering of the Venezuelan people.

However, Maduro and his cronies might use the sanctions to rally around the flag and accuse the U.S. of imperialism. This might reinforce the move towards a Cuban styled authoritarian regime, whereby Maduro seeks support of countries to support it’s increasingly thrust towards a despotic regime.

This might also increase the pressure on the opposition to seek support to thwart a plunge towards authoritarianism – e.g. international support to create a parallel government against President Maduro. This might eventually turn into violence or even a civil war.  

Tragically, to be continued…. 

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