A new agreement between the Venezuelan government and U.S.-controlled opposition parties is raising hopes for an improvement in the country’s economic situation — and highlighting the cruel and unjust nature of the U.S.-imposed sanctions regime that Venezuela has been suffering under for years. This deadly policy of economic war must come to an end.
On Saturday, negotiators announced that a partial accord had been reached that would allow approximately $3 billion of currently frozen public assets held abroad to be used by a United Nations-run fund to purchase crucial goods like medicine and food. These assets rightfully belong to the government and people of Venezuela, but were essentially stolen by foreign powers hostile to the country’s socialist project as the U.S.-directed regime change push intensified in recent years.
At the same time, the Biden administration announced that it was granting a temporary waiver to the oil company Chevron to resume operations in Venezuela. At the beginning of 2019, the United States imposed an all-out embargo on oil exports, the most important sector of the Venezuelan economy in terms of generating national income and government revenue for social programs. The United States has also cut off Venezuela from purchasing essential chemicals and spare parts necessary for the industry to function. The license to Chevron comes as Venezuela continues to make efforts to revive oil production.
This agreement is an important achievement of the revolutionary government that will alleviate people’s suffering under the blockade. For instance, head government negotiator Jorge Rodríguez explained that as a result of the deal 60,000 cancer patients would be able to receive treatment.
But Venezuela should not have to negotiate over control of its own assets! The United States should immediately cease all coercive measures targeting the Venezuelan economy and instead adopt a policy of respect for the country’s independence.
The sanctions on Venezuela, totaling around 500 different measures, are designed to cause maximum suffering on the population. This, the strategists of U.S. empire hope, will destabilize the government and cause people to lose faith in the process of socialist transformation called the Bolivarian Revolution, which began in 1998 with the election of Hugo Chávez. This campaign began under the Obama administration with the official declaration in 2015 that Venezuela posed an “extraordinary threat to national security,” and escalated into a generalized blockade under Trump — who also orchestrated the Juan Guaidó failed coup attempt.
A report last year by United Nations Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan found that the sanctions “prevented the purchase of blood reagents in 2020 for 2.5 million patients and 123,000 others in need of blood transfusions.” She also found that 2.6 million children were deprived of vaccines, 80,000 HIV/AIDS patients had to suspend their treatment, and that as much as 80 percent of hospital equipment was not working for lack of availability of spare parts. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization recorded a 213.8 percent spike in undernourishment or chronic hunger.
This sadistic policy should not go on one day longer. Likewise, the ridiculous policy of the U.S. government recognizing Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela needs to come to an end. In many cases, it was the false claims by Guaidó’s “administration” to ownership over government assets held abroad that gave authorities in those countries cover to freeze them. Alex Saab, a Venezuelan diplomat who was arrested at the behest of U.S. authorities while he was working to secure food and other essential imports, should be immediately freed.
The U.S. government wants to strangle the country’s socialist project, but even under the extreme hardships of the economic war, Venezuela remains determined to defend its independence. Venezuelans should be free to develop their own social model free from any form of coercion, even if it infringes on the profits of U.S.-based capitalists.