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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Michael Rowan: Washington’s Sanctions on Venezuela
"Venezuela has not accounted for $300 billion of oil revenue it received in the previous 18 years," writes political genius and Latin American expert Michael Rowan about Venezuela. "The U.S. has sanctioned or prosecuted several dozen Venezuelan individuals cozy with the government, PDVSA or the military, but not the institutions themselves. Why not?"

By Michael Rowan

Passing the buck is not a new game in Washington, especially when it comes to Venezuela.

But when the news pops up about the killings in the street, the starvation, the return of conquered diseases, and the weird ban on humanitarian aid, Washington realizes it has to say something. The strangulation of democracy and the free market is old news, very old news indeed, but starvation in a country that has more oil than Saudi Arabia, that’s worth a resolution or two.

The U.S. Congress recently resolved that independent NGOs deliver $10 million of humanitarian assistance (36 cents per Venezuelan) from the US, knowing that independent NGOs have long been banned and only the Venezuelan military or PDVSA distribute food or medicines there.

The U.S. knows that Venezuela’s military are politically partisan. They support the defense of the revolution just as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards taught them since 2006 when presidents Ahmadinejad and Chavez made 200 alliance pacts. The military are not likely to feed or medicate protestors, who include 85% of the population if recent polls are correct.

The U.S. also implores the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and individual Latin American nations, to send humanitarian aid. But the U.S. knows very well that all the aid sent to Venezuela will go straight to the military. End of story.

Acting tough, the U.S. is calling for sanctions against military, PDVSA and government officials who are suspected of corruption, narcotics trafficking, supporting terrorism, and human rights violations. The corruption is worth noting.

Venezuela has not accounted for $300 billion of oil revenue it received in the previous 18 years, but the U.S. has sanctioned or prosecuted several dozen Venezuelan individuals cozy with the government, PDVSA or the military, but not the institutions themselves. Why not?

Meanwhile, Venezuela made another record of sorts: Among people holding anonymous bank accounts in Switzerland, Venezuela is third in the world. Pretty strange for a country with a tiny fraction of 1% of the world’s population, and where the average Venezuelan has lost 20 pounds in 2017 because of the lack of food.

The solution for the U.S. appears to be getting other nations to sanction Venezuelan officials, and not Venezuelan institutions, but only a fraction of the $300 billion missing is likely to be found easily through sanctions of individuals when it’s been hidden by conspiring institutions.

This story gets worse: The U.S. is providing almost all the dollar income Venezuela receives through PDVSA oil and bond sales. The military regime would collapse without the daily infusion of dollars from America. How could the U.S. not know that?

Somehow, the U.S. sees no contradictions between supporting the Venezuelan regime through buying its oil, claiming the regime is committing atrocities, sanctioning individuals but not institutions for those atrocities, and then wondering why its measly $10 million in humanitarian assistance is not reaching millions of hungry innocent people. We live in a time when truth doesn’t seem to matter, in the U.S. or Venezuela.

Michael Rowan is an author and political consultant who has advised presidential candidates throughout Latin America, including Governor Manuel Rosales in Venezuela, President Jaime Paz Zamora of Bolivia and President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. In the U.S., he has advised winning candidates in 26 states. He has been an award winning columnist for El Universal, The Daily Journal -- predecessor to LAHT -- and the Latin American Herald Tribune since the 1990s. He is the author, with Douglas Schoen, of The Threat Closer to Home - Hugo Chavez and the War Against America.


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