Venezuela Sanctions

Alan Cai

October 20, 2023

The White House announced earlier this week that Venezuela’s oil, gas, and gold sanctions established in 2019 were broadly eased as part of a deal with the authoritarian government to allow international oversight for its upcoming 2024 election.

The sanctions were established as part of former president Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Venezuela to push the South American country to implement democratic reforms.

Modern Venezuela began with Hugo Chavez and the kick-off of the so-called pink tide throughout Latin America. As a military officer, Hugo Chavez founded and led the illicit Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 which executed the unsuccessful 1992 coup d'etat.

Released two years later, Chavez founded the Fifth Republic Movement which propelled him to the Venezuelan presidency in 1998.

The first decade of Chavez’s presidency marked key changes in Venezuelan society. He nationalized several Venezuelan industries and channeled the profits into boosting social programs, which led to improved public health, literacy, and housing.

As Chavez’s reign progressed, he began censoring the media, suppressing critics, and changing electoral laws for his own advantage.

As the nation sank into poverty and high debt due to overspending, the government, now led by Nicholas Maduro, began printing more money to solve the financial crisis. Whilst civil liberties were repressed and inflation soared, Venezuela reached the precarious situation it was in.

Autocratic regimes generally do not draw the amount of attention Venezuela attracts. However, a key factor sets the tropical country apart: petroleum. Venezuela sits atop some of the world’s richest oil fields. Its inclusion in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries(OPEC) is a testament to its oil wealth. Yet, much of its oil revenues were suppressed by American sanctions.

The status quo of Venezuela’s massive untapped oil supply ended this week, during which investment and exports dramatically increased.

The administration has received praise and criticism from both sides of the aisle for reaching this deal. Commenders have lauded the crucial step toward democratization as well as the economic opportunity that stems from opening Venezuela’s petroleum fields for US investment. Critics have pointed out that Venezuela should not be rewarded for its authoritarian behavior and that the sanctions will enrich the abusive regime.

Although the United States should proceed with caution when negotiating convoluted deals with the seclusive country, the hint of diplomacy is a step in the right direction for normalizing our relationship with Venezuela. By allowing more cooperation between Venezuelan industries and American conglomerates, the United States can be more successful in shifting Venezuela away from Chinese influence.