Driving Venezuela Towards Famine

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Warnings of famine are increasing in Venezuela, and U.S. sanctions are responsible for driving the country over the edge:

In a new study, Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodriguez at New York brokerage Torino Capital set out evidence that US financial sanctions are associated with a 797,000 b/d drop in oil production, worth about $16.9bn a year. He warned of disastrous consequences in a country which grows barely a third of the food it needs.

“We’re going to see a famine in Venezuela,” Mr. Rodriguez said [bold mine-DL]. “Total imports in April were only $303m and around half of those were oil-related. That is just 8 per cent of the 2012 figure… even if all the imports were of food, it would still be far off the amount needed to feed the country.”

Rodriguez has been warning for months that sanctions could cause a famine in Venezuela. It was clear months ago that strangling Venezuela’s oil sector would have devastating consequences for the population, which relies on the imports paid for by the government’s oil revenue. Rodriguez and Jeffrey Sachs warned back in February:

By commandeering Venezuela’s only lifeline to food supplies and oil field equipment, the United States has lit the fuse. By the Trump administration’s own estimates, sanctions will cost Venezuela’s economy $11 billion in lost oil revenue in the next year, which is equal to 94 percent of what the country spent last year in goods imports. The result is likely to be an economic and humanitarian catastrophe of a dimension never seen in our hemisphere.

US sanctions are supposed to strike at the Venezuelan government, but they have predictably bludgeoned the people as they always do. Modern famines are typically man-made, and this one would certainly qualify as that. Famines today are created by governments and other political actors that choose to put their agenda ahead of the welfare of suffering people. If there is mass starvation in Venezuela, it will be because the people have been made to starve.

In this case, the US would bear a significant portion of the responsibility for a famine in Venezuela. The administration’s decision to strangle Venezuela doesn’t seem to be having any effect on the government, but it is having and will continue to have a deadly effect on ordinary people. As Alex de Waal said in his book Mass Starvation, “Today, acts of commission – political decisions – are needed to turn a disaster into mass starvation.” Venezuela was already suffering from a serious economic and humanitarian crisis. Interventionists then chose to make things much, much worse in their destructive pursuit of regime change. Regime change appears to be far off, and famine is much closer.

Since the failed would-be coup at the end of April, the Trump administration has largely moved on and forgotten about the country that their sanctions are starving to death. If the administration were the least bit concerned about the welfare of the Venezuelan people that they claim to want to help, they would lift sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector immediately. Enormous harm has already been done, but the US can at least stop contributing to the disaster. That is what this former US official recommends:

Thomas Shannon, formerly the top-ranking career diplomat at the US state department and now a senior policy adviser at the law firm Arnold & Porter, believes Washington should change its stance.

“Keeping these sanctions in place, with no mediating action, will have a profoundly negative impact on the Venezuela people,” he said. “It is amazing that some people deny this, but it highlights first the enormity of their miscalculation when they advocated the oil and gas sanctions, and second their willingness to cause great damage to Venezuela to drive Maduro from power. Kind of like the fire bombing of Dresden or Tokyo.”

Broad sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector were always going to create worsening humanitarian conditions in the country. It was a fantasy that the sanctions would force Maduro and his allies from power before the crisis turned into a catastrophe. By taking sides in Venezuela’s crisis and seeking to use economic warfare to force political change, the Trump administration has interfered in the worst way imaginable short of invasion. The US is starving a whole nation in a vain bid to force out its current leadership, and because of that there could be massive loss of life and there will be an ever-growing exodus of people from Venezuela into neighboring countries. Every problem related to Venezuela’s crisis has been made worse over the last six months of fruitless US interference. Meddling in our neighbor’s internal affairs isn’t just unnecessary, but it is also cruel and unjust.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

10 thoughts on “Driving Venezuela Towards Famine”

  1. Sanctions have never been about punishing governments. They’re about punishing civilians into punishing their governments. It is a clear act of terrorism and there is never a good excuse to wage it. America has murdered millions this way in Iraq, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Iran and now Venezuela. They must be called out for their wanton depravity by people of all political stripes, regardless of the political position of the target. Daniel Larison has done a great service to conservatism by speaking out on behalf of the starving people of a socialist government. At the end of the day, anti-imperialism should trump all other philosophies. The right to self-determination and peace belongs to everyone.

    1. How ought the US respond if a foreign polity came to do something truly intolerable? Examples: Slavery, international pedo prostitution, harvesting organs from the poor, bioengineering experiments on the poor. Or more in reality: spreading nuclear weapons.

      Maybe sanctions are justified under certain conditions?

      1. I disagree. The world just generally works better when you stay on your end of the property line. You can speak out, you can call for voluntary civilian boycotts, but denying another country access to resources for any reason is an act of initiatory violence that punishes civilians first and foremost. I cannot justify it. Not as a Christian or an anarchist. It flies in the face of everything I believe in.

  2. Before, for example in the Middle Ages, siege was laid to cities, towns and castles. Now, unfortunately, states have the means to lay siege to entire countries

  3. And yet people still don’t see Trump for the depraved mass-murderer that he is.

    1. I am a Trump supporter . You used to strong of language but every word you said is the truth . Sanctions and blockaids are not very Christian

  4. Seems like Venezuelas warm climate and good soil means they will be able to feed themselves in spite of the USA trying to destroy their economy and system of government. It’s people like many of those found in Washington who are totally dependent on others productivity and resources that have no idea how to survive on their own. One day we just might have to depend on our own resources, then what do we do? What an awakening that will be.

  5. Why would the Christians that elected Trump and wish to stop abortions be in favor of starving Venezuela and Iran . Murder is murder either way .

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