As President Nicolás Maduro continues to undermine democracy in Venezuela, the population struggles to survive 2017, now facing a record child malnutrition crisis.
In an attempt to ramp up the pressure on Maduro and his allies in the state, last week the White House announced its first economic sanctions on the Venezuelan government, banning trades for bonds issued by the Venezuelan government and its state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). But as we have continuously warned our readers, economic sanctions targeting the government and at PDVSA are a risky gamble, potentially hurting Venezuela’s ability to pay off interest on its growing debt and threatening default. The sanctions strategy adopted by the Trump administration is an effort to deny financial sources to the dictatorship. But such targeted efforts only make sense in the context of a clear, directed strategy of international coordination and articulation of goals. A sanctions-only policy threatens to make U.S.-Venezuela policy like the U.S.’s 50-year-plus Cuba policy… and we all know how successful that’s been.
And although the region has started to act collectively, a stronger and fiercer international commitment to engage in broader sanctions is needed to break the dictatorship. But the lack of engagement of the region—particularly with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson missing-in-action from regional diplomacy—has left many wondering what the broader strategy is behind these incremental sanctions.