A New Round of Sanctions on Caracas

Geraldina Colotti

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The West tightens the noose as the opposition buckles

Translated by: Alessandra Perugini

Two rounds of sanctions hit the Bolivarian republic of Venezuela in the final months of 2017: the first, which exacerbated pre-existing conditions, came from the United States, and the second from Europe.

The United States added more government officials to the list of the sanctioned. Now the list contains almost all of the highest representatives of the Bolivarian institutions. Additionally, the United States has exacerbated the financial and trade sanctions against the Venezuelan government. The goal is to impose an economic-financial embargo similar to the one in place against Cuba. For its part, Europe has welcomed the United States approach, forcing an “embargo on weapons” and security systems and “leaving the door open” to possible sanctions made ad personam, after those imposed by North America.

There are certain conceivable cases that would set a serious precedent. If, for example, something were done to prevent the diplomatic work of the ambassador Isaías Rodríguez, the former vice-president of the National Constituent Assembly, there could be substantial consequences. Should he be sanctioned, Rodríguez would not be able to move within Europe, and it would in fact be forbidden for him to carry on his work as diplomatic representative of Venezuela in Italy.

These measures were soon adopted by Canada and by some Latin American countries that function essentially as vassals of the United States, like Colombia. The latter has blocked a shipment of medications travelling to Venezuela, revealing the true scope of the “humanitarian assistance” they are willing to bring to the Venezuelan population: a masked invasion that would open the door to meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs. Otherwise, why block the transport of medications that were already paid for and should have been distributed for free to the population? Even criminal acts are rationalized, so long as they facilitate perceived failures of the Venezuelan government.

The guiding motivation behind the sanctions is also grotesque, as both the United States and Europe claim to be acting in favor of “dialogue.” At the same time, however, they put pressure on the opposition in anticipation of the recent meeting in the Dominican Republic, where the government, the opposition, and representatives from other countries gathered to ostensibly find a way to move forward together. The talks concluded without any agreement, however, and another round is scheduled to begin on 18 January.

This dynamic lays bare the complete dependence on external forces that characterizes the divided and litigious opposition, which disintegrated after its defeat in the last regional elections, in which Chavismo won in 18 out of 23 States.

The majority of the sanctioned Chavista functionaries have proudly rejected American and European arrogance: “For me these sanctions are a medal given me by the people,” said Isaías Rodríguez, speaking at a conference on the 100 year anniversary of the October Revolution. Nevertheless, the financial blockade also affects the ongoing transactions for debt restructuralization, which the Maduro government is leading with some difficulties. The American aim is to act through the so-called vulture funds, similar to what happened in Cristina Kirchner’s Argentina. The objective is to further restrict the Venezuelan liquidity in order to exacerbate the economic war and push the people further in opposition to their own government.

But the most important victory in these years of Bolivarian socialism is the increasing public appreciation for left politics. The oldest have recognized that years of unrestrained neoliberalism led to a world in which protests were followed by bullets. And they do not want to go back. They also remember Antonio Ledezma–mayor of Gran Caracas during the Fourth Republic–who allowed protesting students to be shot.

Today, he is welcomed as a hero in Spain, after escaping from the house arrest to which he was confined for health issues. Greeting him is the “democratic” Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, similarly accustomed to resolving popular protests with broken skulls. And the US and EU are already imagining a government in “exile,” based on the model attempted with Syria, that would have at its head nothing less than the ex-golpista Ledezma.