The US Is Starving Venezuelans In the Name Of Democracy

Above photo: Massachusetts Peace Action.

The Biden administration granted Temporary Protected Status to refugees from Venezuela, which will permit them to live and work in the United States. This is the right thing to do, and it is a break with the previous administration, but there need to be more significant changes to U.S. policy towards Venezuela. The TPS decision is treating the symptom of Venezuela’s deepening crisis while U.S. sanctions intensify it. As long as our government’s broad sanctions remain in place, they will exacerbate the economic and humanitarian crises in the country. The U.S. will succeed only in making conditions for ordinary Venezuelans worse while Maduro and his allies become more firmly entrenched.

Trump’s pursuit of regime change in Venezuela was one of his worst policies, and it has deepened the misery of the Venezuelan people. It is maddening that the complete failure of this policy hasn’t prompted more demands for abandoning it. Regime change remains the goal of U.S. policy, and that practically guarantees that the policy will remain a failure that comes at the expense of the well-being and lives of innocent people. The Biden administration should be undoing this policy and lifting broad sanctions so that at the very least the U.S. isn’t making things worse. Unfortunately, they are mostly keeping the policy they inherited, including support for the increasingly irrelevant and unpopular Juan Guaidó.

The Biden administration calls its predecessor’s policy a failure, but then refuses to make substantial changes to the most destructive part:

A senior Biden administration official portrayed that as a failed strategy.

“The United States is in no rush to lift sanctions,” [bold mine-DL] the official said, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss the policy. “But we need to recognize here that unilateral sanctions over the last four years have not succeeded in achieving an electoral outcome in the country.”

Here we have a good example of why U.S. foreign policy is frequently so destructive, why there is so little accountability for failure, and why sanctions are almost never lifted once they are imposed. The administration official acknowledges the failure of Trump’s approach and correctly derides “unilateral sanctions” as ineffective, and in the same breath he says that nothing is going to change. If you know that the sanctions have failed and will continue to fail, you ought to be in a bit of a rush to get rid of them because they are contributing to a humanitarian catastrophe.

The administration feels no sense of urgency because there is very little pressure on them to fix this failing policy, and there is so little pressure on them because the victims of this policy are largely invisible to the American public. Our government wages pitiless economic war on innocent people, but because it claims to be doing so in the name of democracy there is almost no resistance from Congress or anywhere else.

The Trump administration’s decision last year to end the humanitarian exemption for diesel fuel has greatly worsened the crisis:

Diesel suppliers including India’s Reliance Industries Ltd and advocacy groups concerned about the humanitarian impact of shortages have urged new U.S. President Joe Biden to lift the ban on so-called diesel swaps. Venezuela has not received a cargo of imported diesel since Reliance’s final shipment arrived in November, Refinitiv Eikon data show.

You can see here how harmful this is to the population. Fuel shortages will cripple the country’s supply chain, and more people will starve. The Venezuelan people have already been enduring years of deprivation, and sanctions have intensified that suffering so that politicians in Washington can appear to be “doing something.” They certainly have “done something,” and that is to drive millions of people towards famine and want. The longer that it takes for the Biden administration to relieve the pressure on the Venezuelan people, the more that it will own the consequences of this failed policy that it is choosing to continue.

Biden needs to restore the diesel exemption at once, but an even better response would be to abandon “maximum pressure” entirely. Our Venezuela policy is starving an already impoverished nation, and there is an urgent need to end that policy.