By CEPR – June 18, 2021
Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts and chair of the powerful House Rules Committee, released a letter on Monday calling for an end to “all secondary and sectoral sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the Trump Administration.”
This refers to economic sanctions that killed tens of thousands of Venezuelans in just their first year (2017–18), and almost certainly tens of thousands more since then. McGovern’s letter cites estimates that more than 7 million people are “in need of humanitarian assistance,” and that poverty increased “from 48% in 2014 to 96% in 2019, with 80% in extreme poverty.”
“There is no longer any way to hide the fact, which every economist knows, that the terrible suffering and death that Venezuela has experienced in recent years is overwhelmingly a result of economic collapse and deprivation caused by US sanctions,” said Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
The International Monetary Fund estimates that Venezuela has lost more than 72 percent of its GDP per person since 2015. A collapse of this magnitude is practically unprecedented, even during some of the most destructive wars.
Weisbrot noted that under the Geneva and Hague conventions, to which the US is a signatory, these sanctions would be considered collective punishment, and therefore a war crime, if committed during a war.
“It is obvious that if something is a war crime when people are shooting and dropping bombs, it is an equally serious crime when there is technically no war taking place,” he said.
The sanctions also violate the charter of the Organization of American States and other international treaties that the US has signed, as well as international law.
McGovern’s letter notes: “Although U.S. officials regularly say that the sanctions target the government and not the people, the whole point of the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign is to increase the economic cost to Venezuela of failing to comply with conditions the U.S. imposes. Economic pain is the means by which the sanctions are supposed to work.”
“More Democrats in Congress should join with McGovern, and demand that President Biden end this suffering and death caused by the Trump sanctions,” Weisbrot said.
Weisbrot noted that the NATO summit communique, led and signed by the United States, states: “We are committed to the rules-based international order.”
“There can be no rules-based international order when one nation — in violation of its treaty obligations — can unilaterally destroy the economy of another, with immense human cost,” said Weisbrot.
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