that nobody mentions that the US already imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company, back in 2011. It has also imposed targeted sanctions against several members of the government for allegedly being drug kingpins, from this one in 2008 to one just last year.
Despite warnings that Hugo Chávez would use these sanctions as a means to attack the US in rhetoric and blame the US for Venezuela’s failings, Venezuela’s response was muted from the start, and has fallen so silent that these sanctions now go unmentioned by everyone: scholar David Smilde of WOLA and Tulane University, who argued today in the Washington Post against sanctions; US Asst Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who recently said that the US had been asked by the Venezuelan opposition not to impose sanctions on Venezuela; Sen. Marco Rubio, who is pushing specific sanctions against individuals in the Venezuelan government; and even Chavismo’s top English-language polemicist, Eva Golinger.
I think anyone arguing that Maduro will use US sanctions to bolster his position needs to explain why he hasn’t already done that. Here’s what I think: the Venezuelan people aren’t stupid. Even die-hard government supporters know there are some awfully corrupt people in their government. People from the political right might say corruption is a natural facet of central planning and socialism, those from the center might blame history or say Venezuela has always had its bad apples (mangoes?), and those on the left call the corrupt ones the “derecha endogena” and blame them for halting the revolution’s progress. Different diagnoses, but they can agree on the presence of corruption. They know that the country’s problems don’t come from a few US sanctions against unpopular individuals and light sanctions on PDVSA.
I don’t have an opinion on whether the US should impose sanctions on supposed human rights violators from Venezuela, but I wish those debating would recognize the status quo for what it is.