Chapter 4: Year 2019: Encirclement, Asphyxiation and Resistance
Since 2014, the U.S. government has promoted and applied against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, a series of coercive measures that have had a negative and dramatic impact on the development of the country, and particularly that of children. These measures were joined by others by the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and the countries of the self-styled Lima Group, preventing the Venezuelan State from fulfilling its economic, financial and commercial obligations.
Since Obama’s decree in 2015, the U.S. government has issued a declaration of continuous war expressed in a legal instrument that has a start date but no end date. “This character of temporality and the consecutive renewal of the Decree, is a political manifestation that ratifies the use of prolonged asphyxiation for the domination and submission of peoples” (Viscalla, 2022, p.10).
The law leaves open an expansion of the legal framework of the United States to lay the foundations for an eventual aggression against Venezuela:
“… warning the whole world of its readiness to exercise its military power to defend its interests. This makes it a pre-war decree, an element that we can appreciate more clearly if we remember that there is no military intervention carried out by the United States that has not been preceded by a decree declaring that country a threat to the interests of the United States.” (Ibid., pp. 10-12)
On January 23, 2019, the President of the National Assembly and leader of the opposition party Voluntad Popular, Juan Guaidó, proclaimed himself “President in charge of Venezuela”, ignoring the electoral triumph and second term of President Nicolás Maduro; with the immediate recognition of the U.S. government and allied countries.
This action is followed by the signing of two Executive Orders by Donald Trump’s administration; with the aim of guaranteeing the delivery of resources of goods and assets of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the United States, as is the case of CITGO, a subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, PDVSA, the main oil refining and marketing company of gasoline and lubricants, and Monómeros, a petrochemical company of PDVSA located in Colombia, which served 40% of the fertilizer market in that country and which in August 2020 would be confiscated by the government of President Iván Duque.
In his annual message to the 2023 National Assembly, President Nicolas Maduro laid out the objective of this strategy:
“The parallel government of Juan Guaidó meant a 99% drop in the country’s oil revenues and this is summarized in the pursuit and persecution of all investment, exploration, exploitation, oil production, marketing, sale and collection activity, where all activities are subject to interventionism, and sanctions with a single objective: That Venezuela does not have the resources that it can freely produce, that it must freely receive in order to invest them in its economy, to invest them in the social rights of the people, to invest them in the rights of society.” (Annual Message, 2023)
A brief overview of the political context of 2019 highlights the strategy of encirclement and asphyxiation of the so-called soft coups, and their interrelation and harmony with unilateral coercive measures: self-proclamation of Juan Guaidó on January 23, freezing of $1.2 billion in gold reserves in the Bank of England, kidnapping and usurpation of CITGO, attempted incursions from Colombia into the national territory, technological sabotage against the Gurí Hydroelectric Complex, which caused the largest blackout in the country (March 10) with significant consequences for the national electricity system; and the call for a coup d’état by Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López on April 30 of that same year, from a point near the Franco de Miranda Air Base in La Carlota. All actions that failed in the face of civic-military-police unity.
Several of the unilateral coercive measures from the United States against Venezuela in 2019 focused on legitimizing the interim government, attacking the petroleum industry, preventing the sovereign use of our resources and undermining the right to development of the Venezuelan people.
It should be noted that April 2019 was the month in which the highest number of unilateral measures were applied against Venezuela, 88 in total. “During this period, the country received a sanction every three days.” (The Numbers of the Blockade 2014-2022). The ruthless attack on various areas of our economy can be seen in Table 1, which contains a summary of the universal coercive measures during that year.
Booklet No. 1. Summary of Coercive Measures of the United States in 2019
|Medida Coercitiva Unilateral
|08 de Enero
|The Treasury Department sanctioned seven people for their relationship with the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Five other individuals and 23 entities were sanctioned by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), including the TV channel Globovisión.
|25 de Enero
|President Trump signs Executive Order 13857 “On the Adoption of Additional Measures to Address the National Emergency with Respect to Venezuela,” two days after the self-proclamation of Juan Guaidó, with the aim of adapting the texts of all executive decrees since 2015 when referring to “government of Venezuela” in order to legitimize the political recognition of Guaidó as “president” and create the conditions for appropriating assets. The order sanctioned Banco Central de Venezuela.
|28 de Enero
|The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions state-owned PDVSA. All of the oil company’s properties under U.S. jurisdiction will be blocked, and payments to its CITGO subsidiaries will be frozen in U.S. accounts. Relinquishes control of CITGO and the bank accounts of the Venezuelan state in its territory to the “transitional government” of Juan Guaidó.
|06 de Marzo
|Trump extends for one year former President Obama’s 2015 Executive Order, declaring Venezuela a threat to U.S. security.
|11 de Marzo
|The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Russian bank Evrofinance Mosnarbank for helping the Government of Venezuela circumvent economic sanctions through the use of the “Petro” cryptocurrency. The entity is jointly controlled by state-owned companies from Venezuela and Russia with the purpose of financing oil and infrastructure projects.
The State Department sanctions the Compañía General de Minería Venezolana (Minerven), attached to the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana (CVG), in order to block its assets and prohibit Americans from establishing business relations with the company for alleged illicit gold operations.
05 de abril
The U.S. sanctions 34 vessels that PDVSA uses to transport oil and goods, including Venezuelan oil to Cuba.
17 de abril
The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned and issued Office of Foreign Assets Control designations against the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) and its director Iliana Ruzza, in order to disable most of the actions of the BCV carried out by President Maduro’s administration.
03 de mayo
May 03 The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN), an office of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, issues an alert to financial institutions to report suspicious activity on funds and other assets associated with the Government of Venezuela, limiting operations and transactions related to the CLAP program.
11 de julio
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence of the Government of Venezuela (DGCIM), pursuant to Executive Order 13850, due to it operating in Venezuela’s defense and security sector. All assets and interests in property of this entity, and entities in which 50% or more is owned, directly or indirectly, by such entity, in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.25 de julio
The Treasury Department sanctions ten people, related to companies that provide food and goods to Venezuela, under the argument of establishing an alleged scheme of corruption and “social control” through the CLAP food program. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions diplomat Alex Nain Saab Moran, who was taking steps to ensure that food was obtained for the committees.05 de agosto
Trump signs Executive Order 13884 referring to “Blocking of assets of the Government of Venezuela”, as an additional measure with respect to Obama Executive Order. Blocking all assets and interests in assets of the “disputed government” of Venezuela in the United States and may not be transferred, paid for, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise traded.
24 de septiembre
The USA sanctions four shipping companies for bringing Venezuelan crude oil to Cuba, as well as suspends the entry of all officials of the National Constituent Assembly, deputy ministers and higher positions.
|04 de diciembre
|The US sanctions six Venezuelan oil tankers. OFAC identifies the ships as Icarus, Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi, Manuela Sáenz, Paramaconi, Terepaima and Yare, owned by PDVSA.
|20 de dic- iembre
|U.S. Congress passes the “Venezuela Emergency Aid, Democracy Assistance, and Development Act of 2019” (Public Law 116-94) in order to grant $400 million to the “interim president,” as well as urges the State Department to invite the governments of Latin America and Europe to implement Unilateral Coercive Measures.
Sources: Observatory on Unilateral Coercive Measures (MPPEFCE), Sánchez Clara, documentary sources.
The U.S. government issued two Executive Orders, with the aim of attacking the oil industry and economically suffocating the national government, with the “interim government” as a façade. In that year, former President Trump signed Executive Order 13857 in January. On the adoption of additional measures to address the national emergency with respect to Venezuela. (01/25/2019) with the aim of legitimizing the political recognition of Guaidó as “president”. This is in the face of “continued attempts to undermine the Interim President of Venezuela and undermine the National Assembly, the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, and to prevent the Interim President and the National Assembly from exercising legitimate authority in Venezuela.”
By including the term “Government of Venezuela” as “any political subdivision, agency or instrument thereof, including the Central Bank of Venezuela and Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA),” the measure laid the groundwork for the seizure and looting of CITGO Monomeros and other Venezuelan property and assets by the “interim” with the support of the U.S. government.
The impact of this order and the following ones on the performance in value of oil exports, considering that 94% of the country’s total revenues come from oil, is reflected in the figures of the Central Bank of Venezuela on total exports for the year 2019, which shows the fall of this indicator by 38.49%”.” (Giménez, & Alson, 2021).
“The effectiveness of unilateral coercive measures lies precisely in the economic power of the United States and its currency, the dollar, on which the international financial system depends, transactions in the oil market and the payment system that allows trade and the banking system to function in the context of the world economy. Add to this Venezuela’s dependence on oil revenues, and you can get an idea of how sanctions have had and continue to have a devastating impact on the Venezuelan economy.” (Ibid.).
With this Executive Order at the beginning of 2019, the government of Donald Trump would create the conditions for the illegal confiscation of Venezuelan goods and assets to be administered by “President Guaidó”.
As Weisbrot, M., Sachs, J (2019) argue:
“The January sanctions also froze many billions of dollars of Venezuelan assets that could have been sold to maintain the import of essential life-saving goods, or to stabilize the economy. The frozen assets include most of the $9 billion in government reserves that are in gold; trade loans worth an estimated $3.4 billion; and CITGO, with net assets estimated at $5.2 billion (p. 3)… With the recognition of Juan Guaidó as interim president, the U.S. government prevented Venezuela from accessing CITGO… Most of the government’s $9 billion foreign reserves are in the form of gold; The sanctions make it very difficult to sell this gold.”” (Weisbrot & Sachs, 2019, p.13).
The study by these economists from the Center for Policy and Economic Research (CEPR), based in the US, also concludes:
“The most immediate impact of the January sanctions was to cut off Venezuela’s access to its largest oil market, the United States, which had bought 35.6% of Venezuela’s oil exports in 2018 or, on average, about 100% of the country’s oil exports, approximately 586,000 barrels per day. In the week of March 15, imports of Venezuelan oil to the United States fell to zero for the first time, and remained at zero for another two weeks before there was a small uptick that was only a fraction of their 2018 average.” (p. 2)
Oil exports declined drastically and consequently so did the income of resources for imports of industrial inputs and consumer goods, as shown in Figure 4:
Figure No. 4.
Source: Venezuelan Anti-Blockade Observatory
As can be seen in Figure 5, the fall in Venezuela’s oil production decreased by 130,000 barrels per day from January to February 2019, with a collapse in March of 289,000 barrels per day.
Figure No. 5. Oil Production Rate Nov 2018-March 2019
Source: OPEP (2019), OPEP. Secondary Sources. Weisbrot, M, Sachs, J. (2019, p. 14)
The decline in oil activity is also reflected in the Central Bank of Venezuela’s report for the first quarter of 2019, which establishes a decrease of 11.6% in the first three months of the year, as well as non-oil activities at -25.4%. According to the institution, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 26.8%.  Central Bank of Venezuela. First Quarter 2019 Report. https://www.bcv.org.ve/estadis- Year-2019-Quarter-I
When analyzing how the Venezuelan oil rentier model facilitates the negative impact of the so-called sanctions and their destructive consequences on the population, Vladimir Adrianza (2020, p. 277) argues that these coercive actions “have exploited the structural weaknesses that have existed for decades in the Venezuelan economy and that are part of the dependent rentier model sown in the country during the last century”.
The second executive measure of 2019 is Executive Order 13884 of August 5, 2019, referring to “Blockade of assets of the Government of Venezuela”, which contributed to reducing oil revenues, already depleted with the drastic fall in international prices from $96 per barrel to $26.50 between 2014 and 2016. (OPEC, 2015, 2020). As oil revenues hit, imports of industrial inputs and consumer goods were reduced.
The purpose of the presidential regulation is to adopt additional measures with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13692 of March 8, 2015 (on the Blocking of Assets and Suspension of the Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Venezuela).
“All property and interests in property of the Government of Venezuela that are in the United States, that hereafter become in the United States, or that are now or are now under the power or control of any U.S. person, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid for, exported, withdrawn or otherwise traded.”
It also prohibits “any transaction that evades or eludes, or has the purpose of evading or eluding, violating or attempting to violate any of the prohibitions established in this decree”… and “any conspiracy purporting to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this decree.”
This type of executive regulation was an aggression that reduced the State’s capacity to obtain the financial resources, goods and services required to cover and fully satisfy the main needs of its inhabitants, as well as to ensure the proper functioning of the institutions responsible for guaranteeing the country’s recognized rights before international institutions, such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Discrimination against Woman (CEDAW). In the Ninth Periodic Report (2021) of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to this body, which monitors the application of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, it is highlighted how universal coercive measures negatively impacted the rights of women and girls:
 United Nations (1979, December 18). Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. https://www.ohchr.org/es/instruments-mechanisms/instru- ments/convention-elimination-all-forms-discrimination-against-women
As a result of this aggression, national income has declined by 99%. In addition, by May 2019, there was $5.470 billion belonging to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela illegally held in the international financial system. In addition, assets located abroad valued at more than $30 billion have been divested from Venezuela.
In addition to this set of external aggressions that generate serious impacts on the human rights of the population and especially of women and girls, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has had to face a series of internal challenges posed by a violent sector of the opposition that has decided in recent years to promote a series of insurrectionary agendas to undermine the constitutional order. (CEDAW, 2021) 
 Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (2021). Ninth periodic report of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to be submitted in 2018 under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).https://tbinternet.ohchr. org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=C DAW%2FC%2FVEN%- 2F9&Lang=en
Of the total of $24 billion to $30 billion confiscated abroad: $7 billion is frozen in banks, $5 billion is held in the IMF, $2 billion in 31 tonnes of gold confiscated at the Bank of England and $10 billion in Citgo Corp. confiscated by the United States. (The Numbers of the Blockade, 2022).
Also in 2019, the U.S. Congress passed the Venezuela Emergency Aid, Democracy Assistance, and Development Act of 2019 (Public Law 116-94) (12/20/2019).
Although this measure is not an Executive Order, its negative impact on the national economy and, consequently, on the enjoyment of the rights of Venezuelan children and adolescents is considerable. In December 2019, the U.S. Congress approved this law whose objective is to provide support to the supposed “Interim President of Venezuela” and the recognition of the National Assembly (2015), as well as to urge the State Department to invite the governments of Latin America and Europe to implement Unilateral Coercive Measures.
The so-called Truth Act, by Senators Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio, allies of the Venezuelan opposition, promoted coercive measures against Venezuela including some $400 million for humanitarian assistance to our country and neighboring countries, and an additional $17 million for the support of Venezuelan “democratic actors and civil society.” This translates into strong financial support for the operations of the “interim government”, as well as resources for regional governments that recognize it. It also devises a fast track for the financing of non-governmental organizations linked to opposition parties, and a secure source of income under the guise of “humanitarian aid”.
The legislative instrument is defined in the text as a contribution to “freeze and recover assets stolen from the Venezuelan people” by the “disputed government of Nicolás Maduro.” It also establishes a ban on visas for the families of sanctioned officials “of the disputed government of Venezuela.”
In statements to the media, Menendez said that “without sanctions, Venezuela cannot be saved.” For this reason, he proposed “extending them to those who support the Maduro government, as a measure to seek a ‘peaceful’ and ‘diplomatic’ solution to the Venezuelan crisis.” 
 U.S. Senate approves Truth for Venezuela bill. (Dec 20, 2019) HT- tps://www.vozdeamerica.com/a/eeuu-senado-aprueba-proyecto-de-ley-verdad-para-venezue- la/5213544.html
This Law was included via amendment in December 2019, the goals subscribed to in the Financing Bill for fiscal year 2020, such as:
– Weapons Restriction Law in Venezuela.
– Russian-Venezuelan Threat Mitigation Act.
– Law on Humanitarian Assistance to the Venezuelan People.
In February 2020, according to a report released by the U.S. State Department, it was learned that the U.S. government allocated more than $656 million since 2017 to “humanitarian assistance” for Venezuela. (US Embassy, 2020).  Between 2018 and 2019, $279 million was allocated to the response efforts of 16 countries and 158 organizations within Venezuela, distributed as $3 million for national and international “impartial organizations,” and $128 million for “human rights defenders, human rights organizations, human rights organizations, civil society, independent media, election monitors, and the interim government.” 
 Provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans in need. https://ve.usembassy.gov/es/brin- give-vital-humanitarian-assistance to-venezuelans-who-need-it/
 USAID. (2021, January). USAID in Venezuela. Frequently asked questions. https://2017-2020.usaid.gov/ Venezuela-FAQs
On the other hand, USAID’s fact sheet for fiscal year 2019 shows that from 2017 to 2019 humanitarian funding for the regional response to Venezuela reached $152,394,006.  The business of “humanitarian aid” and the “regional crisis” for governments allied with Washington against Venezuela is clearly expressed in Figure 6:
Figure No. 6. US Government Humanitarian Financing for the Response to the Regional Crisis of Venezuela 2018-2019
Source: USAID Fiscal Year 2019 $Millones
 Regional Crisis over the Situation in Venezuela – Fact Sheet N°1, Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. (2019, March, 1) https://reliefweb.int/report/venezuela-bolivarian-republic/crisis-regio- nal-by-the-situation-of-venezuela-sheet-4
Paradoxically, in January 2019, Venezuelan families in Ibarra, Ecuador, including children and the elderly, were attacked and evicted from their homes, following the call by former President Lenín Moreno to create “control brigades” for Venezuelan migrants, which incited xenophobia throughout the country. In August 2018, some 1,200 Venezuelans, including adults and children, fled Pacaraima, on Brazil’s border with Venezuela, after their tents and personal belongings were burned by groups of Brazilians in the face of inaction by the authorities. Incidents of discrimination and violence in the countries that received “humanitarian funding” multiplied under the silence of their rulers, several of them key players in calling on Venezuelans to leave the country under the false promise of citizenship and work. These discriminatory acts hit children particularly hard. Xenophobia not only reduces their capacity for development, but also increases the possibility of violations of their rights and their physical and mental integrity.
- Orinoco Tribune 2https://orinocotribune.com/author/yullma/
- Orinoco Tribune 2https://orinocotribune.com/author/yullma/
- Orinoco Tribune 2https://orinocotribune.com/author/yullma/
- Orinoco Tribune 2https://orinocotribune.com/author/yullma/February 29, 2024