End 50 Years of US Economic War Against Venezuela

May 30th, 2019 - by End Venezuela Sanctions & Alliance for Global Justice

Venezuelans protest US sanctions (Photo: Daily Herald)

ACTION: First International Twitter Storm to End the Blockade against Venezuela

End Venezuela Sanctions & Alliance for Global Justice

(May 29, 2019) — Keep the pressure up all day! 

International solidarity groups unite today with Venezuelan grassroots social movements to declare an end to the economic and financial war against Venezuela and her people. 

Today, The Campaign to End US and Canada Sanctions against Venezuela invites you to share with the world what is happening in Venezuela by joining this Twitter campaign:  #TrumpUnblockVenezuela. We ask you to join today’s action to help expand our message that Sanctions are Warfare.  Help raise awareness of among our own communities and pressure Congress and Parliament to lift the economic block on Venezuela. 

Please send out Twitter messages all day and include #TrumpUnblockVenezuela and #TrumpDesbloqueaVenezuela.  

report recently released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) by economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs [see below] found that 40,000 people have died as a result of sanction since 2017. Sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food and other essential imports.  Make no mistake, sanctions are a form of economic war and are used as collective punishment on the Venezuelan people.

Timeline of Half a Decade of US Economic War Against Venezuela


The various waves of US sanctions have caused economic losses of at least $130 billion.

(May 21, 2019) — As of Jan. 23, 2019 when the self-declared ‘president’ Juan Guaido attempted to lead a coup, the hostility of the US blockade against Venezuela increased substantially.

However, the latest sanctions by Washington against Venezuela come as a culmination of almost half a decade of US aggression by multiple successive administrations seeking to put an end to decades of leftist rule in the oil-rich South American country. 

While the recent US sanctions are blocking the Venezuelan people from using over $11 billion from Citgo Petroleum, a corporation owned by Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), total damages are estimated at $130 billion for the period between 2015 to 2018, as the Venezuelan Ambassador to Russia, Carlos Rafael Faria Tortosa, said Tuesday.

While the Venezuelan government, human rights organizations and experts, as well as economists,  warn that such sanctions are directly affecting the Venezuelan people, US officials seem to care little about their suffering.

In October 2018, during an exclusive interview with VOA media, former US ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield said the “best solution” would be to “accelerate” the collapse of the Bolivarian Revolution even if that implied a greater burden of human suffering.

teleSUR put together a timeline of economic sanctions and hurdles placed on the Venezuelan government by both the United States government and the US banking system, revealing a strategic escalation of aggression by the US government over the past few years. 

December 2014

The US Congress approved Law 113-278: “Public Law for the Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society in Venezuela,” which establishes the road map for unilateral coercive measures by the US and the countries that operate within its sphere of influence.

This law expressly established “sanctions” against the Central Bank of Venezuela and PDVSA, the main state company which has a monopoly on the exploitation of all the nation’s hydrocarbons and generates more than 90 percent of the revenues in the country.

With this legal instrument, the United States opened the doors for unilateral measures to block and freeze assets, funds and Venezuelan properties; suspension of entry, cancellation of visa or other documentation belonging to officials who hold public office, military officers and diplomatic representatives.

All these actions were aimed at creating the conditions of an economic, financial and commercial embargo on Venezuela, as well as to hinder the participation of state representatives in international relations.

March 2015

US President Barack Obama signed a decree, which designates Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the US National Security.”
As a result, Citibank refused to receive Venezuelan funds seeking to purchase 300,000 insulin doses required for the treatment of Venezuelan diabetic patients.

May 2016

Due to pressures from the US Treasury Department, the German bank Commerzbank unilaterally closed the accounts of Venezuelan public institution and companies.

July 2016

Citibank unilaterally terminated its service to correspondent accounts in foreign currency of Venezuelan institutions in the US, including those of the Venezuela’s Central Bank (BCV).

Risk rating agencies assigned Venezuela the world’s highest financial risk (2,640 points), well above countries at war, despite having fulfilled its external debt commitments. Venezuela had paid $63.4 billion in debt service since 2013; however, the financial risk increased 202 percent during the same period, rising from an average of 768 in 2012 to 2,323 in 2016.

August 2016

Portugal’s Novo Banco reported the impossibility of conducting dollar-denominated operations with Venezuelan banks, due to pressures exerted by its corresponding banks.

September 2016

In order to partially refinance its financial obligations and reschedule its debt amortizations, the Venezuelan government makes an offer to exchange $7.1 billion in PDVSA bonds. The US-based risk rating agencies threatened investors with declaring default if they agree to the Venezuelan proposal.

November 2016

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. issued a false default alert about an alleged $404 million PDVSA debt default.

December 2016

Venezuela did not receive a shipment of new banknotes from the Crane Currency company, which is a US Treasury Department’s supplier and was contracted by the Venezuelan state to print currency cone pieces.

July 2017

The Delaware Trust company, an agent of payments of PDVSA bonds, announced that its US correspondent, the PNC Financial Services Group, refused to receive funds from the Venezuelan oil company. 

August 2017

The US Executive Order 13808 prohibited all transactions aimed at financing Venezuela, banned direct or indirect purchases of Venezuelan government securities, which included bonds, loans, credit extensions, loan guarantees, credit letters, drafts, bankers acceptance, invoices or discount notes and commercial papers.

With this order, the US blockade against the Bolivarian government became official and granted legal status to the financial boycott, making private banks an openly active partner of the US isolation policy.

The Swiss multinational investment bank, Credit Suisse, prohibited its clients from carrying out financial transactions with Venezuela.

The Bank of China at Panama stated it would not carry out any operation in favor of Venezuela due to both instructions from the US Treasury Department and pressures coming from the Panamanian government.

Similarly, Russian banks refused to make transactions towards Venezuelan banks due to restrictions imposed by correspondent banks based in the US and Europe.

Claiming administrative reasons, the BDC Shandong’s correspondent paralyzed a $200 million transaction towards Venezuela even though the People’s Republic of China had already rotated the corresponding funds.

October 2017

Venezuela could not deposit money in the Swiss UBS Investment Bank to pay for vaccines and medicines purchased through the Pan American Health Organization (PHO). This caused a delay of four months in the acquisition of vaccines and altered the Venezuelan vaccination schedules.

November 2017

The Deutsche Ban, the main correspondent of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), permanently closed all Venezuelan accounts.

International banks refused 23 Venezuelan operations, worth $39 million, aimed at purchasing food, basic supplies and medicines.

The Standard and Poor’s rating agency declared Venezuela to be in “selective default” for allegedly failing to register a payment process on time, a label which was later found to be false.

Wilmington Trust, a company managing bonds, accused the Venezuelan company Corpoelec of not paying $27 million in debt interests. This happened in a moment when Venezuela’s means of payment were going through a full blockade within the US financial system.

December 2017

US banks arbitrarily blocked 19 bank accounts through which Venezuela had been making payments to land transport cabotage services. This caused fuel shortages in several states and also hindered transactions related to 471,000 vehicle tires which had already been paid.

European banks delayed a $29.7 million transaction with which the Venezuelan Committees for Local Supply and Production (CLAP)’s food program had arranged to pay its suppliers.

J.P. Morgan Chase delayed accepting resources for $28.1 million which were destined to pay services from vessels transporting food supplies to Venezuela.

January 2018

About $1.2 billion in Venezuelan sovereign bonds and PDVSA bonds could not be repaid to their creditors due to the Trump administration’s sanctions.

February 2018

The US Treasury Department extended financial penalties established in the August 2017 Executive Order 13808. The renegotiation or restructuring of the Venezuelan debt, issued by the government and its public enterprises before August 25, 2017, was impeded.

March 2018

President Trump renewed executive orders 13692 and 13808 for an additional year. He also prohibited debt restructuring in favor of Citgo Petroleum, the PDVSA’s US subsidiary company, and prevented the repatriation of the company’s dividends.

The US issued executive order 13827, effectively prohibiting any citizen or institution from making financial transactions with ‘Petro,’ a Venezuela’s state-owned cryptocurrency.

April 2018

During the Summit of the Americas, Peru’s Foreign Minister announced that Lima Group has decided to create a follow-up group to study further political and economic measures against Venezuela.

In the same event, Colombia and the US agreed to accelerate mechanisms to chase Venezuela’s financial transactions and hinder basic products supply lines.

May 2018

In retaliation for the victory of Nicolas Maduro in the presidential elections on May 20, 2018,  during which the Bolivarian leader received 67 percent of 9 million votes, the US issued executive order 13835 which prohibits purchasing debt and accounts payable by Venezuelan state-owned companies.

In addition, the Trump administration sanctioned 20 Venezuelan companies for alleged ties to drug trafficking.

Thus the US government banned all kinds of operations related to the sale, transfer, assignment, or granting performed by any US-based company where the Venezuelan government had a share of 50 percent or more.

Consecuently, over 15,000 hemodialysis patients shouldered the blow when $9 million meant for purchasing dialysis supplies was blocked. The Colombian government blocked a 400,000 kilos supplies shipment for the Venezuelan food subsidy program.

August 2018

The Brazilian government failed to pay $40 million to the Venezuela’s Electricity Corporation for its energy supply to the Roraima state. Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes declared that his country’s debt could not be paid due to “the economic and financial blockade imposed by the US and the European Union.”

November 2018

Through a new coercive measure, the Trump Administration prohibited US citizens from trading gold exported from Venezuela.

January 2019

The Trump Administration approved new sanctions against PDVSA, which included freezing $7 billion in assets owned by CITGO. This measure will bring about $11 billion estimated export-related losses in the coming years.

On Jan. 28, the State Department and the Department of the Treasury ceded control of CITGO and Venezuelan bank accounts in its territory to Guaido’s representatives.

In Europe, as a result of an extraterritorial and illegal application of coercive measures, the Bank of England announced the confiscation of Venezuela’s gold reserves valued at $1.4 billion.

March 2019

As a consequence of executive order 13850, the production and trading operations of the Venezuelan Guyana Mining Corporation (Minerven) were affected.

This executive order also compromised the operations of the Venezuelan Economic and Social Development Bank (Bandes) and the institutions over which it retains 50 percent ownership, namely, Bandes Uruguay, People’s Bicentenary Bank, Universla Bank, Bank of Venezuela and Prodem Bank.

April 2019

The operations of more than 30 PDVSA oil tankers were blocked.

Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela 

Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs / Center for Economic and Policy Research

 (April 2019) — This paper looks at some of the most important impacts of the economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the US government since August of 2017. It finds that most of the impact of these sanctions has not been on the government but on the civilian population.

The sanctions reduced the public’s caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation.

They exacerbated Venezuela’s economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilize the economy, contributing further to excess deaths. All of these impacts disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans.

Even more severe and destructive than the broad economic sanctions of August 2017 were the sanctions imposed by executive order on January 28, 2019 and subsequent executive orders this year; and the recognition of a parallel government, which as shown below, created a whole new set of financial and trade sanctions that are even more constricting than the executive orders themselves.

We find that the sanctions have inflicted, and increasingly inflict, very serious harm to human life and health, including an estimated more than 40,000 deaths from 2017 to 2018; and that these sanctions would fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory. They are also illegal under international law and treaties that the US has signed, and would appear to violate US law as well.

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