by Marjorie Cohn, Truthout
Part 2 - Sanctions Constitute Illegal Collective Punishment
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has increased punishing sanctions on Venezuela as a step toward forcible regime change. “Statements from the [Trump] administration indicated that the purpose of the sanctions was to provoke a military rebellion to topple the government,” according to a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Those sanctions are exacerbating the humanitarian catastrophe in Venezuela. They have led to more than 40,000 deaths from 2017-2018 and oil production has fallen more than 36 percent since January 2019.
The report says the economic sanctions Trump imposed in August 2017 “reduced the public’s caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation.” In addition, “They exacerbated Venezuela’s economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilize the economy, contributing further to excess deaths. All of these impacts disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans.”
According to the report, “Even more severe and destructive than the broad economic sanctions of August 2017 were the sanctions imposed by executive order on January 28, 2019, and subsequent executive orders this year; and the recognition of a parallel government.”
Seeking to pressure Cuba to cease its solidarity with Venezuela, Trump has slammed Cuba with more sanctions, stiffening the economic and travel blockade and activating Title III of the Helms Burton Act to allow thousands of lawsuits that will discourage tourism and investment in Cuba.
Trump has threatened Cuba with “a full and complete” embargo if it does not “immediately” stop supporting the Maduro government. Cuba called Bolton a “pathological liar” for alleging that Cuban troops are stationed in Venezuela. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez stated at a news conference, “This is vulgar calumny. Cuba does not have troops nor military forces nor does it participate in military or security operations of the sister Republic of Venezuela.” Indeed, the CIA has determined that Cuba is much less involved and its solidarity is much less crucial to Venezuela than U.S. officials think, according to a former official.
In December 2018, Trump signed a bill levying sanctions to block Nicaragua from obtaining loans from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The U.S. government is targeting Nicaragua’s Bancorp, which has ties to Venezuela.
All of these sanctions constitute collective punishment of the civilian population, which is prohibited by the Geneva and Hague Conventions. They also violate the Charter of the Organization of American States, which prohibits intervention in the internal or external affairs of another country and the use of economic or political coercive measures “to force the sovereign will of another State.”
This is not the first time the U.S. government has interfered and intervened in these three sovereign socialist countries. In 1960, responding to a secret State Department memo, the Eisenhower administration imposed an economic embargo on Cuba. The memo proposed “a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” The cruel U.S. economic blockade against Cuba, which continues to this day, has never led to the overthrow of the Cuban Revolution.
In the 1980s, the Regan administration illegally assisted the Contras, who sought unsuccessfully to overthrow Daniel Ortega’s socialist government in Nicaragua.
And in 2002, the CIA during the George W. Bush administration mounted a failed coup attempt against socialist president Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
The United States uses a double standard for its human rights concerns and its attacks on socialist countries.