This paper looks at some of the most important impacts of the economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the US government since August of 2017. It finds that most of the impact of these sanctions has not been on the government but on the civilian population.
The sanctions 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. 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, which as shown below, created a whole new set of financial and trade sanctions that are even more constricting than the executive orders themselves.
We find 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 to 2018; and that 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. They are also illegal under international law and treaties that the US has signed, and would appear to violate US law as well.
By Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs
Published on CEPR, Apr 2019
Report Finds US Sanctions on Venezuela Are Responsible for Tens of Thousands of Deaths
This Year Will Be Much Worse, Authors Say, If Sanctions Continue
Washington, DC ― A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), by economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, finds that economic sanctions implemented by the Trump administration since August 2017 have caused tens of thousands of deaths and are rapidly worsening the humanitarian crisis.
“The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports,” said Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of CEPR and coauthor of the report. “This is illegal under US and international law, and treaties that the US has signed. Congress should move to stop it.”
The paper notes that the recognition by the Trump administration of a parallel government in January created a whole new set of financial and trade sanctions that are devastating to the economy and population. These new restrictions make it much more difficult to even pay for medicines and other essential imports with the limited foreign exchange that is available.
The authors also explain how the sanctions prevent an economic recovery from the country’s severe economic depression and hyperinflation.
“Venezuela’s economic crisis is routinely blamed all on Venezuela,” said Jeffrey Sachs, coauthor of the paper. “But it is much more than that. American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela’s economy and thereby lead to regime change. It’s a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.”
Among the results of broad economic sanctions implemented by the Trump administration since August 2017:
- An estimated more than 40,000 deaths from 2017 to 2018;
- The sanctions have reduced the availability of food and medicine, and increased disease and mortality;
- The August 2017 sanctions contributed to a sharp decline in oil production that caused great harm to the civilian population;
- The US sanctions implemented since January, if they continue will almost certainly result in tens of thousands more avoidable deaths;
- This is based on 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);
- Since the sanctions that began in January 2019, oil production has fallen by 431,000 barrels per day or 36.4 percent. This will greatly accelerate the humanitarian crisis, but the projected 67 percent decline in oil production for the year, if the sanctions continue, would cause vastly more loss of human life.
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