Letter to Congress: Support Diplomacy, Not War/Economic Sanctions on Venezuela

March 31st, 2019 - by Hassan El-Tayyab / Coalition Letter to Congress from Just Foreign Policy et al.

March 16, 2019 National March on Washington: Hands Off Venezuela!

(March 28, 2019) — This new coalition letter is addressed to Congress in support of dialogue in Venezuela and in opposition of military intervention and economic sanctions.  It will be sent to members of Congress on Monday April 1st. 

Dear [Member of Congress],

We, the undersigned groups, wish to express our grave concern regarding the Trump administration’s dangerous and destructive regime change strategy targeting Venezuela. Broad economic sanctions unilaterally imposed by the administration since August of 2017 have caused great hardship and loss of life for many Venezuelans.

The latest round of sanctions announced in January are expected to worsen the current crisis and provoke even greater human suffering throughout the country.  

Though many observers have noted that civil war is an increasingly likely prospect, administration officials are vigorously opposing peaceful dialogue between the country’s political actors and have made open threats of military intervention.

We call on you to take a strong, public stand against these immoral, reckless and illegal policies and to support efforts to advance peaceful dialogue, before it is too late.

We urge you to:

• Oppose economic sanctions:  

Although government mismanagement and the fall in global oil prices are to blame for much of Venezuela’s deep crisis, the Trump administration’s economic sanctions — both the August 2017 financial sanctions and the January 2019 sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry — are resulting in billions of dollars of additional lost foreign exchange necessary for essential imports, according to experts and even administration officials like NSC Advisor John Bolton. 

In the current context, these sanctions will inevitably generate greater human suffering, including many deaths from lack of medicine and other essential imports.  Unilateral economic sanctions are illegal under the UN Charter and the OAS charter; and research shows that they are generally ineffective in achieving desired political results.

• Oppose threats of military intervention: 

President Trump has reportedly argued for military intervention in Venezuela since early 2017, while he and various other administration officials have repeatedly stated that “all options are on the table” for Venezuela.

These threats are absolutely unacceptable, particularly regarding a country that poses no threat to the U.S., and are only increasing the immense political polarization in Venezuela.  Members of Congress should firmly denounce these threats and make the adoption of the “Prohibiting Unauthorized Military Action in Venezuela Act” a top priority.

They should also commit to invoking the 1973 War Powers Resolution in the event that President Trump and his Administration involve the military in any action directed at Venezuela, thereby triggering a debate and vote in Congress to terminate any unauthorized use of force.  

• Support dialogue: 

U.S. administration officials have rejected the possibility of dialogue and, instead, have pushed for immediate regime change in Venezuela, calling for Venezuela’s armed forces to rebel against the Maduro government.  Experts have warned that this strategy could result in a split within the country’s military, with a potentially catastrophic violent outcome.  Members of Congress should oppose the administration’s dangerous zero-sum strategy and advocate for peaceful dialogue. The Vatican, the UN Secretary General, Mexico and Uruguay have all offered to help mediate dialogue and political negotiations to resolve the current crisis peacefully.  Congress should support these efforts.

With the recent appointment of convicted Iran-Contra veteran Elliott Abrams as Special Envoy to Venezuela and the increasingly hawkish rhetoric coming from the White House, your support could not come at a more crucial time.

There is no moral, legal, or political justification for the collective punishment of the economic sanctions, which target the Venezuelan population. There is no military solution; Venezuela’s crisis must be solved through dialogue and negotiations. Congress should therefore insist on lifting destructive economic sanctions, and taking unauthorized war off the table.


Just Foreign Policy

Demand Progress

Peace Action

American Friends Service Committee

Environmentalists Against War

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Alianza Americas

CASA de Maryland

Chicago Religious Leadership Network

Center for International Policy – Americas Program


Just Associates (JASS)

Vermont Workers’ Center

Vote Vets

Chicago Religious Leadership Network

Center for International Policy

Americas Program

Hassan El-Tayyab is the Co-Director of JustForeignPolicy.org