UN rapporteur: US sanctions on Venezuela are ‘blunt’ way to engineer regime change, causing blanket starvation
US sanctions against Venezuela are like “going into microsurgery with a kitchen knife” and are holding an entire population hostage, the UN special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures told The Grayzone.
by Michael Selby-Green
Part 3 - Sanctions as Washington’s replacement for military intervention
On 28 January US secretary of state Mike Pompeo defended the measures implemented against PDVSA. He said: “These new sanctions do not target the innocent people of Venezuela and will not prohibit humanitarian assistance including the provision of medicine and medical devices, which are desperately needed after years of economic destruction under Maduro’s rule.”
“The United States will continue to take concrete and forceful action against those who oppose the peaceful restoration of democracy in Venezuela.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has also criticised the Venezuelan government.
In a statement to the Human Rights Council on March 20, she condemned the “dramatically” deteriorating economic and social rights in the country and highlighted reported abuses and alleged killings by pro-government security forces which she said her office is investigating.
The next day, National Security Adviser John Bolton warned that the toughest sanctions were yet to come, writing on Twitter: “Unless Maduro’s usurpation ends, he and his cronies will be strangled financially. The window is closing.”
Erich Ferrari, a lawyer and founder of a Washington DC-based law firm specializing in US economic sanctions, told The Grayzone that an idea has developed in Washington among some decision makers that the US can get whatever it wants by applying sanctions.
Ferrari believes the US has moved from using sanctions as a tool to achieve focused policy objectives to making them a strategy in their own right replacing military intervention.
“Sanctions used to be a tool to gain leverage as part of a boarder diplomatic strategy. Now sanctions are the strategy,” he said. “I think they view it as: ‘We have a larger political problem with Venezuela, these are some of the bad things Venezuela are doing to justify our sanctions.’”
“The American appetite for military intervention has thankfully gone down and this is seen as replacement to that. It’s still violence. It’s not physical violence, it’s economic violence that we’re perpetrating against others who we believe to be acting contrary to our interests.”
Ferrari said sanctions are easier to sell to the US public because few people understand them, and soldiers don’t need to be sent to fight when the US financial system and the dollar can be leveraged instead.
Jazairy has appealed to the United States for the sanctions to be lifted and for Venezuelans to be allowed to resolve the crisis internally, he told The Grayzone.
The UN special rapporteur successfully helped negotiate an end to US economic sanctions against Sudan on October 6, 2017. He applauded the United States for that decision and called on leaders to take similar action again with Venezuela.
“This is a recognition by the United Nations, that those sanctions that are not approved by the Security Council have an adverse impact,” he said.
The UN official called for the effects of the sanctions to be closely monitored in the meantime, so they can be quickly reversed if the situation in Venezuela starts “exploding.”
When lives are threatened by food and medicine shortages, the difference between life and death can be a matter of hours and days rather then months, he said.
“We [special rapporteurs] are all independent,” Jazairy continued. “We don’t have an axe to grind in politics, and we just think of defending the people.”
“International humanitarian law says that it’s a crime to take a population hostage. Why are these people taken hostage? Solve the problem between political leaders, but don’t take innocent individuals as pawns in this political game that’s going on in Venezuela.”