In Foreign Policy, Global South, Imperialism, Sanctions, Venezuela

The initiative by legal experts, academics and activists looks to investigate and denounce US-led economic coercive measures. (@adriennepine)

originally published 30 July, 2023 on

Anti-Imperialist Committee Holds ‘Hearing’ on Venezuela Sanctions and Impact

Caracas, July 30, 2023 ( – The International People’s Tribunal on US Imperialism held a session in Caracas on Friday dedicated to unilateral coercive measures and their consequences on Venezuela.

The tribunal, which focuses on “sanctions, blockades and economic coercive measures,” brought a 14-person delegation to the Caribbean country. The team featured academics, lawyers and activists, including representatives from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL).

Former Foreign Minister Félix Plasencia, who currently serves as secretary-general of the ALBA alliance, offered the event’s opening words and recalled the Hugo Chávez-led regional integration efforts.

“Today, in spite of the difficult conditions, we remain committed to solidarity, integration and regional unity,” he told those present.

The hearing was held at the Venezuelan Anti-Blockade Observatory’s headquarters in the El Rosal neighborhood of the capital. The observatory’s general coordinator William Castillo was the first expert witness to intervene.

“Unilateral coercive measures are very much a global problem,” he explained. “Around 28 percent of the world’s population has been directly targeted by sanctions.”

Castillo, who is currently vice minister of anti-blockade policies, offered an overview of the US-led sanctions against the South American nation, including targeted companies and seized foreign assets.

Since 2017, the US Treasury Department has levied wide-reaching coercive measures targeting virtually all Venezuelan economic sectors, including food imports, banking and especially the oil industry, with the aim of triggering regime change and ousting the Nicolás Maduro government.

The blockade significantly worsened the country’s economic crisis and closed the door to possible solutions. Venezuela’s GDP contracted by more than three quarters between 2014 and 2021.

The 2019 recognition of self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaidó by Washington and allies likewise saw a number of Venezuelan foreign assets, with US-based refiner CITGO chief among them, frozen and in some cases handed over to the parallel administration.

Sanctions have been imposed executively by successive US administrations, with a framework established by a 2015 decree issued by then-President Barack Obama that declared Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security. The order since has been renewed yearly by Obama and his successors Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

The hearing featured interventions from Venezuelan legal experts and activists from organizations including human rights NGO SURES and the Simón Bolívar Institute. Tribunal members were also shown video testimony from several grassroots organizers.

The different speakers testified to the impact of sanctions on different sectors of Venezuelan society, particularly on women’s and children’s health as well as the rights of minorities. Former UN rapporteur Alfred de Zayas estimated that US sanctions have caused more than 100,000 civilian deaths.

The hearing concluded with a preliminary statement from the Tribunal that “unequivocally denounce[d] the US imperialist hybrid war on the Venezuelan people, economy and state.”

“In our mission, we learned about the suffering of the Venezuelan people because of the imperialist sanctions regime. But we also learned about and have been inspired by their resistance,” it went on to state.

Prior to Friday’s event, which was broadcast live on the internet, the delegation held a fact-finding mission that included meetings with state officials, grassroots groups and NGOs. It additionally visited the Panal 2021 Commune and the Cumbe Nacional Afrovenezolano in popular Caracas barrios.

Since February, the Tribunal has held online hearings on Zimbabwe, North Korea, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Eritrea, Gaza, Haiti, Nicaragua, Cuba and Iraq. It will hold sessions dedicated to Hawai’i and Puerto Rico before a closing event in late September in New York City.

The initiative aims to expose the consequences of US foreign policy and produce resources that can be of use for political organizing as well as legal efforts in international instances.


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