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The U.S. is waging a war against Venezuela, the Bolivarian republic. The war has already taken a very high toll: death of 40,000 people in the country in 2017-2018 due to sanctions the most powerful economy in the world has imposed, finds a study. It is a genocide.

Columbia University economics professor Jeffrey Sachs carried out the study.

The study report – Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela – said: Most of the impact of these sanctions has not been on the government, but on the civilian population.

The report published by Washington DC based the Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) examines affect of the sanctions imposed by the U.S. after August 2017 on the lives of ordinary citizens of Venezuela.

Sachs, Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, and his co-author, economist Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), argue that these sanctions have caused and continue to cause harm and threaten Venezuelans’ lives and well-being.

40,000 deaths in 2017-18

The report finds that the sanctions have inflicted, and increasingly inflict, very serious harm to human life and health, including an estimated more than 40,000 deaths from 2017–2018.

One result of the sanctions, as described above, is to deprive the Venezuelan economy of many billions of dollars of foreign exchange needed to pay for essential and life-saving imports. The sanctions implemented in 2019, including the recognition of a parallel government, accelerated this deprivation and also cut off Venezuela from most of the international payments system, thus ending much of the country’s access to these essential imports including medicine and food — even those that could normally be bought with available dollars. There is no doubt that all of these sanctions since August 2017 have had severe impacts on human life and health. According to the National Survey on Living Conditions (ENCOVI by its acronym in Spanish), an annual survey of living conditions administered by three Venezuelan universities, there was a 31 percent increase in general mortality from 2017 to 2018. This would imply an increase of more than 40,000 deaths. More than 300,000 people were estimated to be at risk because of lack of access to medicines or treatment. This includes an estimated 80,000 people with HIV who have not had antiretroviral treatment since 2017, 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 people with cancer, and 4 million with diabetes and hypertension (many of whom cannot obtain insulin or cardiovascular medicine). These numbers by themselves virtually guarantee that the current sanctions, which are much more severe than those implemented before this year, are a death sentence for tens of thousands of Venezuelans. This is especially true if the projected 67 percent drop in oil revenue materializes in 2019. The accelerating economic collapse that current sanctions have locked in assures further impacts on health, and premature deaths. For example, the increasing collapse of export revenue — and therefore imports — has also created massive public health problems in the areas of water and sanitation. The electricity crisis has also affected hospitals and health care. Food imports have dropped sharply along with overall imports; in 2018, they were estimated at just $2.46 billion, as compared with$11.2 billion in 2013. They can be expected to plummet further in 2019, along with imports generally, contributing to malnutrition and stunting in children. The UN finds the groups most vulnerable to the accelerating crisis include children and adolescents (including many who can no longer attend school); people who are in poverty or extreme poverty; pregnant and nursing women; older persons; indigenous people; people in need of protection; women and adolescent girls at risk; people with disabilities; and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex.

Collective punishment

It said:

“These sanctions would fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory,” the study report says.

The economists stressed that series of U.S.-imposed sanctions have made it very hard for Venezuelans to have access to food, medicine and medical equipment.

“The sanctions implemented in 2019, including the recognition of a parallel government, […] cut off Venezuela from most of the international payments system, thus ending much of the country’s access to these essential imports including medicine and food, even those that could normally be bought with available money. There is no doubt that all of these sanctions since August 2017 have had severe impacts on human life and health.”

August 2017 sanctions

On the sanctions imposed in August 2017, the report said the report said:

The US government imposed sanctions since August of 2017 have 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. They exacerbated Venezuela’s economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilize the economy, contributing further to excess deaths.

The report said:

The sanctions prohibited the Venezuelan government from borrowing in US financial markets. This prevented the government from restructuring its foreign debt, because any debt restructuring requires the issuance of new bonds in exchange for the existing debt. Thus, these sanctions prevented the economy from recovering from a deep recession, which had already taken a large toll on the population, which along with the economy was more vulnerable to these sanctions and the ones that followed because of the economic crisis. Real GDP had already declined by about 24.7 percent from 2013 through 2016, and consumer price inflation for January to August 2017 was probably somewhere between 758 percent and 1,350 percent at an annual rate.

It said:

It is important to emphasize that nearly all of the foreign exchange that is needed to import medicine, food, medical equipment, spare parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems, or transportation, is received by the Venezuelan economy through the government’s revenue from the export of oil. Thus, any sanctions that reduce export earnings, and therefore government revenue, thereby reduce the imports of these essential and, in many cases, life-saving goods. The August 2017 sanctions adversely affected oil production in Venezuela. However, following the August 2017 executive order, oil production crashed, falling at more than three times the rate of the previous twenty months. This would be expected from the loss of credit and therefore the ability to cover maintenance and operations and carry out new investments necessary to maintain production levels. This acceleration in the rate of decline of oil production would imply a loss of $6 billion in oil revenue over the ensuing year. This by itself is an enormous loss of foreign exchange, relative to the country’s need for essential imports. Imports of food and medicine for 2018 were just $2.6 billion. Total imports of goods for 2018 were about $10 billion. The loss of so many billions of dollars of foreign exchange and government revenues was very likely the main shock that pushed the economy from its high inflation, when the August 2017 sanctions were implemented, into the hyperinflation that followed. Other executive decisions made by the Trump administration resulted in the closure of Venezuelan accounts in financial institutions, loss of access to credit, and other financial restrictions that have had severe negative impacts on oil production as well as the economy.

January 2019 sanctions

On the sanctions imposed in 2019, the report said:

The immediate impact of the January sanctions was to cut off Venezuela from its largest oil market, the United States, which had bought 35.6 percent of Venezuela’s oil exports in 2018, or about 586,000 barrels per day on average. In the week of March 15, US imports of Venezuelan oil fell to zero for the first time, and they remained at zero for another two weeks before rebounding to a fraction of their 2018 average.

It said:

Because of these sanctions and other efforts Venezuela’s oil production declined by 130,000 barrels per day from January to February. In the six months prior, it was declining by an average of 20,500 barrels per day. Then in March, it fell another 289,000 barrels per day, for a total of 431,000 barrels per day. This is an economically devastating 36.4 percent plunge in oil production just since the January sanctions. This drop, if maintained over the next year, would cut another $6.8 billion from Venezuela’s available foreign exchange earnings. This is about 21 percent of export earnings from 2018. However, oil export revenues in 2019 are projected to fall by a cataclysmic and unprecedented 67.2 percent from 2018, because of the impact of tightening sanctions. The January sanctions also froze many billions of dollars of Venezuelan assets that could have been sold in order to maintain essential and life-saving imports, or to stabilize the economy. These included most of the government’s $9 billion in reserves that are in gold; trade credits worth an estimated $3.4 billion; and CITGO, with estimated net assets of $5.2 billion. After the January sanctions and the recognition of Guaidó as “interim president” — which made him, according to the Trump administration and other governments recognizing the parallel government —the legal owner of any funds transferred or goods bought by the Venezuelan government, Venezuela’s access to correspondent banks for international transactions was mostly wiped out. This included access to necessary credits for imports of medicine, food, and other essential goods. The sanctions have also contributed substantially to the length and economic damage of power outages, including the severe electricity crises in March.

The report said:

All of these impacts disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans. 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 created a completely new set of financial and trade sanctions that are even more constricting than the executive orders themselves.

Sanctions are illegal

Another important aspect highlighted in the report is that the US is breaking international law as well as violating the principles of the UN by imposing sanctions. “They are illegal under international law and treaties which the US has signed, and would appear to violate US law as well,” the economists wrote.

The report said:

The sanctions are illegal under international law and treaties, which the US has signed, and would appear to violate U.S. law as well.

The unilateral sanctions imposed by the Trump administration are illegal under the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), especially articles 19 and 20 of Chapter IV. They are also illegal under international human rights law, as well as treaties signed by the United States. The sanctions also violate US law. Each executive order since March 2015 declares that the United States is suffering from a “national emergency” because of the situation in Venezuela. This is required by US law in order to impose such sanctions, and the national emergency is invoked under the 1976 National Emergencies Act. This is the same law that President Trump invoked in February 2019 when declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congressional appropriation for funds to build a wall along the border with Mexico. The executive order also states, as required by law, that Venezuela presents “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security” of the United States. There is no foundation in fact for either of these declarations.

There are many provisions in the Charter that prohibit these sanctions, but among the most clear and unambiguous are articles 19 and 20 of Chapter IV:

Article 19 says:

No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.

Article 20 says:

No State may use or encourage the use of coercive measures of an economic or political character in order to force the sovereign will of another State and obtain from it advantages of any kind.

The report said:

Thus one of the most important impacts of the sanctions, in terms of its effects on human life and health, is to lock Venezuela into a downward economic spiral. For this reason, it is important to note that when we look at, for example, the estimated more than 40,000 excess deaths that occurred just from 2017 to 2018, the counterfactual possibility in the absence of sanctions is not just zero excess deaths, but actually a reduction in mortality and other improvements in health indicators. That is because an economic recovery could have already begun in the absence of economic sanctions. And conversely, the death toll going forward this year, if the sanctions remain in place, is almost certainly going to be vastly higher than anything we have seen previously, given the highly accelerated rate of decline of oil production and therefore the availability of essential imports, and the accelerated decline of income per person.

Spain to limit Lopez’s political activity

Imperialist camp-backed Venezuelan politician Leopold Lopez, who has sought refuge in the Spanish embassy in Caracas, will have his political activities restricted, said Spain’s acting Foreign Minister.

“Spain will not permit its embassy to be converted in to a center of political activity by Mr. Lopez, or anyone else,” acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said.

Spain’s government acknowledged Thursday that Lopez, who was illegally unlocked from house arrest to assist with an attempted coup d’état on the government under President Nicolas Maduro Tuesday, cannot request the status of political asylum from Venezuela because such a request must be made only within Spanish territory.

“Lopez has not asked for political asylum because, according to our legislation, for that you must request it while on Spanish territory,” Borrell said adding that while Lopez remains at the embassy, there would be a limit to his political activity.

According to the Venezuelan government, Lopez, who has sought refuge in the Spanish Embassy, cannot request political asylum as Spain was not a signatory of the Diplomatic Asylum Convention of Caracas of 1954.

US seeks meeting with Russia to talk about Venezuela

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will hold a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo next week in Rovaniemi, Finland to discuss, among other topics, their countries differing approaches to the political situation in Venezuela.

“Yes, the meeting has been agreed on,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the news agency TASS.

Brazil’s VP says coup attempt premature

Hamilton Mourao, Brazilian Vice President, has criticized the Venezuelan opposition’s failed efforts this week to convince the country’s military to break with President Maduro and join its uprising, saying that the move may have been premature.

Speaking to reporters, Mourao said that he did not know “whether [Guaido] was afraid of being arrested or if some elements of the Armed Forces had promised some support,” but “looking at it now, we think it was not the best [decision].”

In separate interview with Radio Gaucha, Mourao, a retired army general who has spent time in Venezuela as a military attaché, said that the commanders appeared unaffected, with Brasilia now left “in a position of expectation” regarding the situation in Venezuela.


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