Venezuela has managed to circumvent US sanctions by importing catalysts to restart its huge oil refineries, as well as gasoline to alleviate acute fuel shortages, with the latest shipment departing over the weekend.
Alena Douhan, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, has called for the United States, European Union, Canada, and other nations to lift their economic sanctions against Venezuela, calling them a violation of human rights and of the “principle of sovereign equality of states.”
“The Special Rapporteur calls on all States to review and lift targeted sanctions in accordance with principles of international law, the rule of law, human rights and refugee law, to guarantee the possibility of state officials of Venezuela to represent the state on the basis of the principle of sovereign equality of states, and to guarantee rights of targeted individuals to the presumption of innocence, procedural guarantees, access to justice and other fundamental rights,” she urged.
Among the actions she condemns on these grounds are the freezing and seizure of state property, including Venezuelan money and gold in foreign banks and the property of CITGO; sanctioning people no longer in the Venezuelan government; and the targeting of fundamentals of the Venezuelan economy, including mining, gold, and petroleum. As a result of these sanctions, the Venezuelan government has been left with just 1% of the revenues it had before, severely inhibiting its ability to perform basic social services and its functions as a government.
Iranian oil tanker Fortune is anchored at the dock of the El Palito refinery near Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, Monday, May 25, 2020
She notes that “existing humanitarian exemptions are ineffective and insufficient” and that the structure of US sanctions encourages “over-compliance,” a euphemism for illegal overreach. The Trump administration long claimed its sanctions did not block the importation of humanitarian goods into targeted countries such as Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Venezuela, even as increased suffering and death was found to be directly attributable to shortages caused by sanctions.
Her comments mirror those by dozens of US federal lawmakers in a recent letter to US President Joe Biden in which they urged the lowering of sanctions due to their “catastrophic human consequences,” including inhibiting the Venezuelan government’s ability to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
After Biden took office, his administration quickly moved to recognize the claims of Juan Guaido, a Venezuelan former lawmaker whose claims to be the country’s legitimate interim president have more backing among Western governments than they do among the Venezuelan population. However, Biden also announced a review of all existing sanctions on other nations and their impact on COVID-19 relief. Some sanctions have already been lowered that barred transactions with Venezuelan ports and airports.
According to an April 2019 report by the Center for Economic and Policy research, two years of strangling sanctions had already caused 40,000 excess deaths in Venezuela and imperiled another 300,000 people thanks to shortages in necessary medicines, including HIV/AIDS treatments. Douhan’s report underscores the spread of HIV in the absence of effective prophylaxis and even of condoms; however, she gave no updated mortality figures.